Alcoholism is a dangerous condition. The physical side effects of an alcohol addiction can be severe, and the unintended side effects- such as accidents or DUI’s- can be just as devastating. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the addicted individual is suffering, not many alcoholics are forthcoming about the severity of their situation. The reason for this can depend from person to person. It could be the result of shame, fear, or pride. Regardless of the why’s, in these situations, it can be important for loved ones to know the signs of alcoholism. Knowing the signs can help the individual get help sooner than later and may even end up saving their life.
The First Signs of an Alcohol Addiction
When the addiction first starts to take hold, the signs not be as clear as they will be in the later stages of an alcohol addiction. For example, in the beginning, you may notice things that are more so cause for concern than they are outright red flags. Though these concerning behaviors may not be concrete proof, this is a vital time to start paying attention! Catching an addiction in the early stages can save your loved one from experiencing the more severe consequences they may face later down the road.
Some initial signs to look for include:
- Isolation: if you notice that your loved one is pulling away from friends and family, spending more time alone- and especially drinking alone- take note. When the individual begins drinking in a way that they know is not socially acceptable, they may be prone to drinking alone where people will not see the amount that they are consuming. Additionally, isolating can be a symptom of anxiety or depression, which the person may be self-medicating with alcohol.
- Weight Gain: Alcohol is full of sugar and calories, so it is not uncommon for a person who is drinking excessively to put on weight. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can also cause a person to appear bloated. Weight gain in itself may not always mean that the person is drinking to excess, however if you notice it in combination with other symptoms, it may be something to pay attention to.
- Poor Motivation: Alcoholism can take a dramatic toll on the individuals mental and emotional health, leading to a lack of motivation and drive in life. Additionally, the physical side effects of consuming large amount of alcohol can hamper motivation. Having a hangover or feeling unwell can cause problems showing up for work, school, or activities. If you notice a sudden decline in your loved one’s motivation level, it could mean they have a drinking problem.
- High Alcohol Tolerance: if you notice that your loved one is able to tolerate large amounts of alcohol, that may be cause for concern. As with any substance, prolonged use will lead to developing a tolerance, which could indicate that they drink excessively often. If you notice that the person doesn’t slur their words or have poor coordination after an amount of alcohol that should impair them, that is a good reason to pay attention to how much alcohol they’re drinking, and how often.
- Using Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism: If you notice that the individual turn to alcohol to handle emotional or mental stress, that could mean that they have developed an unhealthy dependence on the substance. While it isn’t uncommon for people to have a beer or a glass of wine to unwind, if they are constantly using alcohol to numb emotional pain, pay attention. This could be a sign of a budding alcohol addiction.
Signs of a Fully Formed Addiction
While the initial signs may be unclear or easy to dismiss, once the individual is in full blow alcoholism, the signs are not so confusing. There are distinct physical and behavioral symptoms that will indicate that the person has an addiction to alcohol. These signs include:
- Financial Trouble: A common sign with any addiction is financial trouble. When a person needs to continuously purchase and use a substance, this can become very costly. Additionally, if the person has been unable to get of keep a job because of their alcoholism, this will further stress the situation. If your loved one is drinking excessively to the point of having to borrow money, take out loans, get evicted, or even potentially steal, they likely have a problem.
- Mood Swings: Addiction in itself is a condition that manifests largely in the mind, and when you add in the depressive effect of alcohol, this makes it incredibly common for alcoholics to suffer from mood swings. Other life circumstances that come with addiction can also add to this, such as the stress that comes with trying to function while maintain a habit, discord within personal relationships, or even underlying mental health conditions that have contributed to the addiction in the first place.
- Health Issues: Alcohol acts as a poison on the body. In a person who consumes a moderate amount of alcohol and only on occasion, the body is able to rid itself of the toxins. However, if a person is consuming large amounts of alcohol daily, the body can’t keep up, and the person will begin having severe health problems. These include liver and kidney disorders, heart conditions, gastrointestinal issues, and even problems with brain function. If your loved one is drinking to the point of damaging their body, it is absolutely vital that they receive help before it’s too late.
Alcohol Withdrawal and Treatment
When the individual decides that they are ready to seek treatment for their condition, there are a some things they should be prepared for. Most importantly, alcohol can be very dangerous. In fact, some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Some common symptoms include tremors, fever, sweating, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and a condition known as delirium tremens. For this reason, if someone with an alcohol addiction decides to quit drinking, they should seek medical detox. During this process they will be medically supervised and given medications that can help manage some of the more dangerous symptoms.
Once the person has undergone detox and they are stable, they can then seek substance abuse treatment. There are various types of treatment, with different benefits. Some common forms of treatment include inpatient rehabilitation, partial hospitalization treatments, and intensive outpatient treatment. Here they will receive therapy and learn the tools that can help them to live a healthy and productive life without returning to alcohol to cope.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to get help. Alcoholism is a crippling disorder both mentally and physically and can have devastating consequences. Speak with a doctor, trusted loved one, or treatment facility staff to discuss your options and begin living the sober, fulfilling life that you deserve.