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Alcoholism Warning Signs

It can be hard to tell when someone has crossed the line into alcohol addiction. When it becomes apparent that the consumption of alcohol is disrupting their health, relationships, and ability to work, it’s time for them to seek help. Knowing the warning signs of alcohol use disorder can help you recognize them in yourself or those around you.

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What Are the Warning Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic and progressive disease that can be fatal. Alcohol use disorder includes alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction.

The warning signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder may vary from person to person. Some people may have all the signs and symptoms, while others may only have a few.

The most common warning signs of alcohol use disorder are:

  • Neglecting responsibilities and performing poorly at home, work, or school.
  • Using alcohol while driving, operating machinery, or combining alcohol with additional drug abuse despite knowing the dangers of these activities.
  • Receiving multiple arrests or running into legal problems because of the influence of alcohol.
  • Continuing to drink despite loved ones advising that you stop or despite the strains that it causes in your relationships.
  • Using alcohol as a relaxation technique or using intoxication as an escape from a stressful day.
  • Drinking more than intended or for longer periods than intended
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking or when drinking less
  • Spending a lot of time drinking instead of doing other things
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol

Warning Signs of Teenage Alcoholism

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences. Many warning signs can indicate a teenager is addicted to alcohol.

These warning signs include:

  • Lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Anger or hostility
  • Disruptive behavior at home or school
  • Frequent hangover or blackouts
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Warning Signs of College Alcohol Use Disorder

The warning signs of college alcoholism are not always easy to spot right away. But as a parent, you should be aware of some of the early indications that your son or daughter may be engaging in underage drinking.

Some warning signs include:

  • A sudden change in behavior, such as becoming irritable or depressed
  • Neglecting school work and other activities they used to enjoy
  • Frequently drinking alone or in secret
  • Missing classes and showing up late for work without an explanation
  • Experiencing blackouts or memory loss after drinking

Binge Drinking Vs Alcohol Use Disorder?

Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL or above.

Alcohol use disorder is a condition in which an individual has difficulty controlling their drinking and may have alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

The difference between binge drinking and alcohol use disorder is that with any substance use disorder, the person begins to compulsively continue their substance abuse even if it has negative consequences,

Using the AUDIT-C Test to Identify a Drinking Problem

The AUDIT-C is a ten-item questionnaire that can be used to screen for alcohol use disorder. The test is designed to identify hazardous and harmful drinking patterns.

The AUDIT-C test consists of ten questions, which are scored on a scale of 0 to 4, with the higher scores indicating a greater likelihood of alcohol use disorder. The total score ranges from 0 to 40, and the cutoff score for hazardous drinking varies depending on gender and age but generally ranges from 8 to 13.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Loved One Has AUD

If you are concerned that someone close to you might have an alcohol abuse problem, it is important to be sensitive about how you approach the situation. Alcoholism is a disease that can be difficult for some people to admit and can be hard for them to overcome without the help of others

You may have noticed a change in their behavior or personality or the way they act when they drink. You could notice physical effects of alcohol use, like red eyes or slurred speech. If there are children involved, they may show more aggressive behavior than before.

There are many ways that we can help someone with an alcohol abuse problem. It is important to know what your options are so that you can make sure that you do what’s best for them and everyone else involved in their life.

Physiological Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism is a severe disease that can lead to major health problems if left untreated.  There are several warning signs that people can look for when trying to identify alcoholism in themselves, a friend, or a family member.

Alcohol Tolerance

When you have to drink a lot more than usual to feel the same effects, your body has built up a tolerance to alcohol. Having a high tolerance to alcohol is an early sign of alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are the physical consequences of abstaining from alcohol for even a short period. Suffering from alcoholism requires a person to drink to relieve or avoid these physical symptoms.

Some withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Tremors, convulsions, or uncontrolled shaking
  • Sweating, even in cold conditions
  • Mood swings, including sudden agitation or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. Withdrawal is an important step in the treatment process, but it can be dangerous.

It is best to undergo a medical detox through the support of a healthcare provider or rehabilitation center.

The physical signs and symptoms of alcoholism can be visible depending on the amount and frequency of drinking.

Some of these visible signs are:

  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Poor balance and clumsiness
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Stomach pains, vomiting, or nausea
  • Loss of consciousness or blacking out
  • Redness of the face during or after periods of consumption
  • Hallucinations
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Health Risks of Alcoholism

Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time. The more alcohol that is consumed, the greater the effect on bodily functions. Every organ of the body is affected when drinking alcohol.

Here are some of the most common negative consequences of alcohol use:

  • Brain: Alcohol interferes with brain communication pathways and can change mood, behavior, cognition, and coordination.
  • Heart: Drinking can damage the heart and cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, strokes, and high blood pressure.
  • Liver: Alcohol can cause dangerous complications to your liver, including inflammation, steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  • Pancreas: Pancreatitis is common in alcohol abusers. The pancreas produces a toxic substance when faced with too much alcohol, which leads to inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels.
  • Immune System: Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, leading to pneumonia and tuberculosis and hindering the body’s ability to ward off infection.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Several treatment programs are effective in altering drinking patterns, including alcohol rehab centers.

Treatment focused on behavioral health (i.e., counseling) can help identify and change the behaviors and environmental factors that lead the person to drink heavily. Working with the counselor, patients can set goals and work to avoid triggers.

There are currently three medications available that are approved to help people reduce drinking and prevent relapse. They can only be prescribed by a physician and are best used alongside another treatment.

Support Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) use a 12-step program to combine professional counseling with peer support. Group members get rewards for reaching sober milestones and are allowed to remain anonymous. Having a support system of friends and family is the best way to stay on track and avoid relapse.

The transition to a sober lifestyle can be wrought with anxiety, and having a mental health support team can make the process easier. All decisions regarding medications and therapy treatments should be discussed with a doctor or medical professional.

Find Treatment for Alcoholism Nearby

If you or a loved one has become concerned about your drinking habits, it’s never too late to get some extra support.

SAMHSA provides a free helpline at 1-800-662-4357 and an online program locator to find alcohol addiction treatment options in your area.

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Centric Behavioral Health, our paid treatment center sponsor, is available 24/7:
Learn More About Centric or For Immediate Treatment Help, Call (888) 694-1249.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Alcohol Use Disorder: What It Is, Risks & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, June 2).
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, May 18). Alcohol Use Disorder. Mayo Clinic.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, December). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Symptoms Of Alcohol Use Disorder – What Is AUD?. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  5. WebMD. (2021, November 2). Physical Signs And Other Symptoms Of Alcoholism & Alcohol Abuse. WebMD.

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