Today, alcohol use disorder (AUD) silently impacts 7.2% of adults in the United States, according to the National Library of Medicine.
For many of these victims of alcohol abuse, symptoms go largely undetected, and timely intervention is missed — prolonging the road to recovery. Luckily, with a proper understanding of this complex condition, you can be better equipped to identify warning signs early, leading to a greater chance of effective treatment.
If you or a loved one believes you may be struggling with alcohol, here are the most common alcohol addiction symptoms to keep an eye out for.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a chronic disease characterized by an uncontrollable urge to consume alcohol despite its negative effects on one’s health, relationships, and social standing. It often involves a physical dependence, where the body requires alcohol to function or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
This addiction can lead to severe health issues, including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and mental health disorders.
Alcohol addiction impacts not only the individual but also their family and community. The condition requires comprehensive treatment involving medical intervention, therapy, and support groups to help overcome dependency and rebuild a healthy, sober life.
Common Alcohol Addiction Symptoms
Increased tolerance and consumption
One tell-tale symptom of alcohol addiction is an increased tolerance to the substance itself. This phenomenon occurs when regular consumption leads to diminished effects from the same amount of alcohol, prompting an increase in quantity to achieve similar levels of intoxication.
This pattern of escalation can be subtle, initially manifesting as drinking slightly more than before and gradually leading to significantly increased consumption. Key indicators include:
- Regularly Consuming Larger Amounts: An individual may start consuming alcohol more frequently or in larger quantities during each drinking session.
- Increased Frequency of Drinking: What may have begun as occasional drinking could evolve into a daily or constant need to consume alcohol, alone or with others.
- Decreased Hangover Symptoms: Surprisingly, as tolerance builds, individuals might experience fewer or less severe hangover symptoms, despite consuming larger amounts of alcohol.
As alcohol addiction intensifies, it often leads to a noticeable neglect of personal, professional, and social responsibilities. This can come about in various ways, such as:
- Work or School Issues: Missing important deadlines, frequent absences, or a noticeable drop in performance and productivity.
- Family and Household Neglect: Failing to fulfill familial duties or care for children, and neglecting household chores and responsibilities.
- Social Withdrawal: Losing interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed, avoiding social gatherings, or distancing oneself from friends and family.
Addiction isn’t occasionally missing a commitment — it’s a consistent pattern of letting responsibilities slide due to alcohol use.
Withdrawal symptoms are physical and emotional responses that occur when a person who is addicted to alcohol stops drinking or significantly reduces their intake. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the number and intensity of symptoms, and are indicative of the body’s dependence on alcohol.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Physical Symptoms: Shaking, sweating, nausea, headaches, and increased heart rate.
- Psychological Symptoms: Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, and sleep disturbances.
- Severe Cases: In extreme cases, withdrawal can lead to more serious symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, or delirium tremens (DTs).
Inability to cut back or stop
Many individuals with alcohol addiction recognize the negative impacts and express a desire to cut back or quit. However, they find themselves unable to do so. This struggle is characterized by repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop alcohol use.
Simple ways to know if you or a loved one is experiencing this symptom include:
- Repeated Unsuccessful Attempts to Reduce Consumption: Individuals often try to limit their alcohol intake but find they’re unable to stick to these self-imposed limits.
- Continued Drinking Despite a Desire to Stop: There may be a strong desire or even repeated efforts to stop drinking, yet the person finds themselves returning to alcohol, often feeling a sense of failure or helplessness.
- Drinking in Dangerous Situations: There can be frequent engagement in risky behaviors like drinking before driving, indicating a loss of judgment and prioritization of alcohol over safety.
- Preoccupation with Alcohol: Individuals may spend excessive time in activities related to alcohol, including planning when and where to drink next.
Continued use despite negative consequences
Continuing to drink alcohol despite clear knowledge of the adverse consequences is a telling sign of addiction. This level of addiction can make an appearance in various aspects of life, with the individual disregarding the effects of consequences such as:
- Physical Health Decline: Persistent drinking despite facing health problems like liver disease, hypertension, or digestive issues.
- Mental Health Deterioration: Persistent drinking despite the exacerbation of co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. The individual may also use alcohol to cope with the effects of such mental conditions.
- Social and Relationship Strain: Persistent drinking despite clear evidence of strained or ruined relationships with family, friends, or colleagues.
- Professional and Educational Repercussions: Persistent drinking despite facing serious professional or educational consequences like job loss, demotion, academic probation, or expulsion at school.
- Legal and Financial Troubles: Persistent drinking despite encountering legal issues (DUIs, public disturbances) or experiencing financial strain (excessive spending on alcohol, neglecting financial obligations) due to alcohol use.
This behavior indicates a deep-seated issue where the urge to drink overshadows the understanding of the harm it causes. The individual often feels a sense of guilt or regret after drinking but returns to alcohol nonetheless.
Taking the First Step
The journey to overcoming alcohol addiction begins with a single, yet profound, step: acknowledging the need for help. Once you recognize your own symptoms of addiction, you can begin looking toward your treatment options.
Treatment for alcohol addiction is made possible with quality rehab centers that offer customized care that meets you on your path to recovery. Oftentimes, these facilities specialize in two different options for treatment care, based on your required level of care: inpatient and outpatient programs.
Outpatient programs provide flexibility, allowing individuals to maintain their daily routines while receiving therapy and support. Inpatient programs, conversely, offer a structured and immersive environment, ideal for those needing intensive care and a break from daily triggers.
The choice of treatment depends on personal circumstances and the severity of your addiction, but both paths lead towards one common goal — sobriety and renewed health.
Quality Alcohol Addiction Treatment in New Orleans
At NOLA Detox and Recovery Center, we specialize in providing comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction tailored to each individual’s needs.
Our rehab center in New Orleans offers a range of programs, including both inpatient and outpatient options, that leverage the latest in evidence-based care to ensure the most effective approach for every patient. Our expert team of addiction specialists, many of whom have walked in your shoes, is dedicated to guiding you toward lasting sobriety.
Ready to reclaim your life from alcohol addiction? Start a conversation with the NOLA Detox & Recovery Center team today. We’re always here to listen — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whenever you need us.