According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious problems like liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and mental problems. In the U.S. alone, alcohol abuse accounts for nearly 90,000 deaths each year. Despite these alarming statistics, it can be difficult to detect alcoholism, especially if you are not vigilant about your drinking habits. Early detection of alcoholism can be the most powerful tool in the fight against addiction and on the road to healthy recovery. If you’re asking yourself if you’re an alcoholic, here is a simple guide to understanding the signs of alcoholism.
Moderate Vs. Excessive Drinking
One of the most easily detectable signs of alcoholism is shift in drinking habits from moderate to excessive drinking, as outlined in this helpful fact sheet from the CDC.
Experts say that moderate drinking consists of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. The shift towards alcoholism occurs when this “moderate” pattern of drinking becomes excessive. This is usually defined by the terms binge drinking and heavy drinking, referring to day and week periods, respectively.
Accordingly, excessive drinking for men is considered 5 or more drinks on a single occasion or 15 or more drinks per week. For women, the excessive numbers are 4 or more drinks on single occasion or 8 or more drinks per week.
More than just raw numbers of drinks consumed, an early sign of alcoholism is the physical and mental symptoms you may experience. Again, experts and health professionals outline these symptoms as a continuum ranging from first-stage alcohol abuse to late-stage physical dependence.
Some of the earliest detectable behavioral signs include drinking longer or more than you had initially planned on a given day or night, experiencing legal problems as direct result of alcohol, and/or experiencing interruptions in daily responsibilities due to alcohol.
In contrast, later stages of alcoholism are marked by an overwhelming physical dependence on alcohol. Overtime, the alcoholic requires larger quantities of alcohol to achieve the desired physical effect. This chemical tolerance to alcohol then leads to a required threshold level of alcohol in the body—meaning that withdrawal effects can quickly take hold.
In most cases, these withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, vomiting, and nausea. Even more seriously, those suffering from late stage alcoholism can experience heart complications, tremors, and even seizures during periods of withdrawal.
These physical problems also carry mental symptoms as well. The late-stage alcoholic may regularly neglect job, family, and social responsibilities to drink. An obsession with drinking to the point of a fixation on obtaining alcohol is another indicator of overt alcohol dependence. Of course, this combination of anxiety and fear can greatly increase the risk of depression and other mental illnesses.
Start Your Recovery Journey
If you are struggling to stay clean and sober, a sober living environment may be right for you. The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation offers men’s sober living residences in the beautiful coastal region of Charleston, SC. We would love to talk to you about how we can help.