Alcoholism: Symptoms and Warning Signs

Alcoholism can be defined as a potentially fatal illness that can be linked to physical dependence, craving, and loss of control related to the consumption of alcohol. However, some alcohol intoxication symptoms may not be immediately obvious to individuals. It is important to note that this issue can negatively impact individuals of any age and gender. 

Learning about the common indications and early signs of alcoholism can help prevent chronic alcoholism along with mental and physical health problems in the future. 

Signs of Intoxication

Alcohol intoxication refers to a temporary state in which an individual consumes an excessive amount of alcohol. This may lead to certain physical and behavioral traits that may be relatively mild or increasingly severe. An individual can experience one symptom or even several in combination that may indicate that they are intoxicated. 

Alcoholism: Symptoms and Warning Signs

Some typical alcohol intoxication symptoms include: 

  • Bloodshot and glassy eyes
  • Flushed or reddened face and skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Loud speech
  • Unable to sit up straight
  • Crying or displaying emotional behavior
  • Drowsiness and falling asleep 
  • Acting overly friendly 
  • Exhibiting unwise money habits 

Alcohol Effects Based on Quantity

Simply drinking alcohol doesn’t make you an alcoholic, but the quantity of alcohol that an individual consumes can also lead to milder or more serious effects. 

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) refers to the percent of alcohol that is present in a person's bloodstream. This is because individual alcohol tolerance can vary from person to person and is typically impacted by factors such as weight. However, this chart provides a rough estimate of the number of drinks ingested and its relation to BAC levels: 

Number of drinksBACEffect
1-2Less than 0.05 A mild sense of relaxation, a lower sense of inhibition, and reduced reaction time 
3-4Between 0.05 to 0.01 The ability to judge is impacted along with fine motor skills and reaction time 
5-7Between 0.10 to 0.15Blurry vision and inaccurate perception may occur along with difficulty controlling emotions and displaying irrational behavior 
9-10Between 0.15 to 0.30 Slurred speech, poor balance, and poor vision may occur, vomiting and nausea can take place 
More than 10More than 0.30 Potential loss of consciousness or disorientation along with a reduced breathing rate

Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can manifest in small ways — and even then, it may not be immediately obvious. For instance, high-functioning alcoholics may be able to conceal these signs from their loved ones and stay on top of their responsibilities at work and at home. However, some early signs of alcoholism include: 

  • A perpetual feeling of a hangover
  • Concealing the fact that you’re drinking and/or drinking alone
  • Experiencing blackouts and/or short-term memory loss
  • Displaying irritability and extreme changes in mood
  • Choosing alcohol over responsibilities and obligations 
  • Justifying your decision to drink alcohol in order to overcome stress, unwind or feel normal
  • Isolating yourself from friends and family 
  • Suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms 
  • Having memory issues
  • Experiencing obsessive thoughts about drinking 

Long Term Effects of Chronic Heavy Drinking

Although they may not be immediately obvious, the long-term effects of alcoholism can be severe and lead to irreversible serious mental and physical health problems, or even death. Because of this, it is vital to spot early signs of alcoholism and take positive action. 

According to the CDC, these are some common symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption over time: 

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
  • Reduced immune system and increased vulnerability to illness
  • Learning and memory-related issues such as dementia
  • Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Social problems such as poor academic performance, poor job performance, and relationship issues 

Fr​​equently Asked Questions

If you feel that you or someone you know is displaying signs of alcoholism, here are some commonly shared concerns. 

How many drinks a day is considered an alcoholic?

For men, having over four drinks per day or over 14 per week may be a sign of alcoholism. For women, this changes to having over three drinks on any day or over seven drinks per week.

What is the lifespan of an alcoholic?

The lifespan of an alcoholic often ranges between 47 to 53 years for men and 50 to 58 years for women, due to the potential health problems that they face. 

Does drinking every day make you an alcoholic?

Drinking alcohol in moderation generally is not a cause for concern, but if it is causing problems in your life or you are consuming it in excess, you may have alcoholism. 

Since the signs of alcoholism can be subtle, seeking guidance from a professional is advised.  At any stage of your life, finding help for alcohol use disorder is possible. This can include behavioral treatments such as counseling from a health professional, medications prescribed by a primary care physician, or joining a mutual peer support group. 

Read about the many potential treatment avenues for alcohol use disorder you can go through at Radical Rehab today.

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