What are some warning signs of an alcohol problem?

Kathy Sowder
Warning signs of an alcohol problem are that you are beginning to have life problems as a result of your drinking. Your spouse or children may say your drinking is a problem and you may become defensive; you may become more preoccupied with having a supply of alcohol handy; you may at times lose control of your intake when you had not intended to. You may begin to have financial problems stemming back to drinking too much. You may have mood swings or feel more depressed (alcohol is a depressant). You may have blackouts (memory loss) at times when you drink. You may not want to go anywhere that does not include drinking, or you may begin to drink before you even go to the party. You may find that it takes more and more alcohol to get the same effect as it used to. You may even begin to have job problems, such as absenteeism or lack of productivity. Having DUIs or public intoxication charges is often an indicator of developing alcoholism. Denial is part of the disease, and most people with alchoholism do not think they do, despite people in their lives believing that they do. If you suspect that you may have an alcohol problem, make an appointment with your doctor or an alcohol treatment professional, because alcoholism is treatable.
Brad Lamm
Addiction Medicine
Here are 10 questions as a self-test to see if someone might have a drinking problem:
  1. Do you use alcohol to build self-confidence?
  2. Have you missed school or work or other important events in your life because of alcohol?
  3. Do you feel guilty or down, after using alcohol?
  4. Have you lost friends or strained relationships because of alcohol use?
  5. Do you feel empowered when you drink alcohol?
  6. Does it bother you if someone mentions they think you’re drinking too much?
  7. Have you gotten in trouble for the way you drink?
  8. Do you have physical costs to the way you drink?
  9. Do you engage in riskier behavior after you drink?
  10. Can you go on the wagon for 30 days without issue?
The first warning sign of alcoholism is usually increased tolerance. You might drink more than other people do, yet despite drinking more, you do not feel drunk. Or, you might need to drink a lot more than you once did to feel any effects from the alcohol.

Another major warning sign is withdrawal symptoms when you don't have a drink. Your body gets used to having alcohol. Without it, your body might shake or tremble, or you may feel anxious, irritable, jumpy or depressed. Other signs of alcohol dependence and withdrawal are loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue and insomnia. In extreme cases, blackouts, seizures, confusion, fever or hallucinations may occur.

Other signs of alcoholism are:
  • You are unable to control the amount of alcohol you drink (even though you tell yourself you will stop or cut down).
  • You cannot give up, or quit, alcohol (despite having the desire).
  • A lot of energy and time is spent on alcohol. This includes planning to drink and drinking and recovering from drinking. Often social plans and interests revolve around drinking.
  • You try to cover up your drinking by purchasing alcohol at different stores. You worry that you won't have enough.
  • You feel guilty, yet continue to drink even though health, relationship or social problems caused by alcohol consumption continue to exist.
  • You show physical signs of dependence, such as upset stomach (gastritis), weight loss or redness of your nose or cheeks.
When trying to decide if you have a serious drinking problem or if someone you know does, ask the following questions:
  • Are serious risks being taken, like driving under the influence, mixing alcohol with medicine or drinking while pregnant?
  • Has drinking become a habit that is used regularly for things such as relaxing, going to sleep, avoiding reality or being more comfortable in social situations?
  • Has drinking become a burden that causes guilt or annoyance when someone brings up the possibility of a problem?
  • Has work, a relationship or health suffered because of drinking?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.