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Home Blog Signs and symptoms of alcoholism: what to look out for and be aware of

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism: what to look out for and be aware of

Posted by David Williams
on 19 Sep 2019

It’s not only those who are dependent on alcohol who can be in denial of the problem – but also those around them.

It can be easy to be convinced that someone is not alcoholic because they continue to function, to work if they are able to go for periods without drinking or to contain their drinking within certain parameters. Unfortunately, none of those things is proof that someone is not alcohol dependent.

There is no definitive checklist that means someone is an alcoholic, but there are signs and symptoms that make it more likely. And one of those signs is that they or someone who knows or cares about them is worried about their alcohol use – so, these concerns should not be ignored.

It’s hard to face alcoholism whether it be your own or that of someone you care about. As there are few definitive indicators of alcohol dependency until such a point that it is all-consuming and deeply entrenched, the signs are possible to overlook. But catching alcohol dependency early will reduce the level of physical and emotional harm and reduce the heartache for all involved. 

Sad Young Man with a drinking problem

Signs of alcoholism

The World Health Organisation developed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which is used by medical professionals to indicate possible alcohol dependence.

No one answer leads to a conclusion of alcoholism but taken together they provide an indicator of possible alcohol dependence.

It asks about:

  • The regularity of a person’s drinking
  • The quantity of alcohol they consume
  • How often they binge drink
  • Whether they find themselves unable to stop drinking
  • If they have failed to meet any responsibilities due to drinking
  • Whether they have needed an alcoholic drink in the morning after a heavy session
  • How often they have felt guilt or remorse in relation to drinking
  • If they or somebody else has been injured as a result of their drinking
  • If anyone has been concerned by their drinking and suggested they cut down

Regular drinking, high volume drinking or numerous occasions of binge drinking can all be signs of possible dependence. 

Failing to meet responsibilities due to drinking, not being able to stop drinking and needing alcohol in the morning can all be signs.

Numerous occurrences of feeling guilt or remorse in relation to drinking, incidents of injury related to drinking and the concerns of others regarding a person’s drinking also indicate potential harmful or dependent drinking.

Anyone who drinks more than 14 units of alcohol per week is putting themselves at higher risk of harm from alcohol. Those units should also be consumed over at least three days.

One unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to a single measure of spirit. A pint of strong beer or cider is around 3 units and a 175ml glass of wine around 2-3 units. The exact number of units depends on the alcohol strength as well as quantity.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms 

The presence of withdrawal symptoms from alcohol is another sign of possible dependence.

Withdrawal symptoms are a physical reaction to not having had an alcoholic drink for a period of time and some people will find themselves having a drink to combat the symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include sickness, retching, being shaky, anxiety or depression.

If you or someone you love experiences withdrawal symptoms it is important to seek medical advice before trying to give up alcohol. In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can lead to dangerous consequences such as seizures, but clinical support will help prevent this.

Medications are available to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and the worst of it is usually over within 48 hours. Seek support for a properly managed detox.

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Other physical signs of alcohol dependence

Misusing alcohol over a period of time can lead to very serious health consequences and even death.

There are a number of health conditions that may be triggered by alcohol dependency and the presence of these or signs of the onset of them, may be a sign of harm from alcohol.

Alcohol misuse can lead to high blood pressure; liver damage; cancers including of the liver, mouth and bowel; depression; gout; sexual problems such as impotence or premature ejaculation and infertility.

Other physical signs of alcohol misuse may include neglect of a healthy diet, weight gain or extreme loss and increased memory blackouts due to drinking.

An ability to drink a large and increasing quantity of alcohol without displaying signs of drunkenness is also an indicator.

The downward labels on The Jellinek Curve 

The Jellinek Curve is a tool used to demonstrate the plunge into addiction and the indicators of recovery.

The labels on the downward slope of the curve are another useful reference when considering if alcoholism is likely.

In descending order toward the bottom of the curve where problems are most entrenched, these include:

  • Constant relief drinking
  • Surreptitious drinking
  • Urgency of first drink
  • Excuses over drinking
  • Grandiose and aggressive behaviour
  • Loss of other interests
  • Avoidance of family and friends
  • Moral deterioration
  • Drinking with chronic users

What to do if the signs of alcoholism are there

The most important thing to do if you suspect you or someone else is alcohol dependent is to seek help.

Making that first call can feel like such a huge step but it’s important to know that help is out there and it can and does transform lives.

You may decide to contact your GP, a helpline or charity or indeed a service provider like Delamere.

Sometimes people don’t find the support they require on their first call, try not to be disheartened if that is the case. Remaining persistent and having faith in the fact that you need and deserve the right support is vital to ensuring you get it. 

Treatment of alcoholism

Alcoholism is something that can be successfully treated and recovered from. It takes effort, determination and support but can be, and often is, treatable.

Support groups, medical intervention, community programmes and counselling can all help toward recovery.

Residential rehab is the most effective form of treatment for alcoholism and addiction. Rehab varies from one centre to another. The most effective clinics pull together all the strands of support necessary to treat the whole person and help not only deal with the physical addiction but the factors that led to it.

For information on what Delamere offers, please do get in touch for a no-obligation chat.

Need help?
Call us confidentially at any time to speak to a member of our team.

Call us now: 0330 111 2015
Signs and symptoms of alcoholism: what to look out for and be aware of
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Signs and symptoms of alcoholism: what to look out for and be aware of
Discover the signs & symptoms of alcoholism. Delamere takes you through what to look out for if you or someone you know has alcohol dependance.
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Delamere Rehab
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About the author: David Williams

David is our General Manager at Delamere. David brings a huge amount of experience from both the hospitality and healthcare sectors. Find out more about David on our team page.

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