Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on 10/04/23
Alcoholism can sneak up quietly, with drinking habits spiraling out of control before you realize it. But paying attention to the red flags can motivate you to seek help before addiction takes hold.
If you or your loved one show any of these signs of alcohol addiction, our alcohol rehab center is at your disposal.
Alcohol addiction is unique to every individual. Not all those prone to drinking will exhibit every sign, nor will they appear simultaneously.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, contact Ardu Recover Center to start your journey towards sobriety in a supportive and compassionate environment.
I recommend you go to ARDU if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction. You won’t find a better program!!! Thanks to my ARDU family, I now have 91 days in recovery today!
There are six physical symptoms of alcoholism and six social and behavioral ones to watch out for.
Alcoholism can take an immense physical toll on your body over time. These six physical symptoms of alcoholism should be a sobering wake-up call that it’s time to take back control of your life and your health.
The more you drink, the more you need. At first, you may not even realize that you now need six instead of your previous three to feel tipsy. As your tolerance to alcohol increases, you could end up needing eight, ten, or even more drinks to get the buzz you crave.
This may be a clear indicator that your body is addicted to alcohol.
This happens because your brain builds tolerance, where the same amounts of alcohol have a reduced effect, leading you to consume more to achieve the desired effect.
Volkow, et. al. explain that when you consume alcohol regularly, several brain adaptations occur:
As you can see, your tolerance to alcohol is a complex phenomenon driven by changes in the neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems.
When alcoholism takes hold, your body actually becomes dependent on alcohol to function normally. If you try to abruptly stop or cut back on drinking, you are likely to experience unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) refers to the cluster of physical and psychological symptoms that can occur when someone who is alcohol dependent drastically reduces or stops drinking. It can begin as early as two hours after the last drink.
Some common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
This happens because addiction to alcohol changes the way the brain operates. Your neurochemistry alters to accommodate the frequent influx of alcohol. After enough alcohol abuse, the brain requires alcohol to feel “normal.”
Jesse, et. al. showed that “abrupt cessation of chronic alcohol consumption unmasks these changes with a glutamate‐mediated [central nervous system] excitation resulting in autonomic overactivity and neuropsychiatric complications such as delirium and seizures.”
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. As we mentioned before, it disrupts the balance between glutamate and GABA, two major excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. Excessive drinking decreases levels of GABA, which isn’t only involved in increasing tolerance but also plays a role in alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol also affects N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, prompting the brain to respond by increasing their numbers and producing more excitatory glutamate in an attempt to restore balance. And when glutamate goes up, GABA goes down.
With the sudden cessation of alcohol in the chronic user, the alcohol mediated CNS inhibition is reduced and the glutamate mediated CNS excitation is left unopposed, resulting in a net CNS excitation. This CNS excitation results in the clinical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in the form of autonomic over activity such as tachycardia, tremors, sweating and neuropsychiatric complications such as delirium and seizures. (Kattimani and Bharadwaj)
It may be excruciatingly difficult for you to quit—and even more so to stand by your decision while your brain is struggling with withdrawal symptoms. Most alcoholics will quickly resume drinking to make the symptoms stop, which perpetuates the cycle of addiction. At our drug and alcohol rehab center, compassionate, skilled professionals are here to help you every step of the way.
When your addiction to alcohol starts to progress, your skin will be among the first organs in your body to let you know. Heavy drinking can take a tremendous toll on your body’s largest organ. From dehydration to inflammation, many systemic effects of alcohol manifest externally through skin ailments.
Here’s how alcohol addiction manifests itself through your skin:
The good news is that the skin can bounce back after alcohol detox and recovery. With a healthy diet, hydration, and skin care regimen, the complexion can revive.
Rapid deterioration of physical appearance is another telltale sign that your overall health is degrading due to alcoholism. As alcohol abuse progresses, physical changes offer a barometer for the internal havoc wrought by addiction.
It may begin with subtle signs like a ruddier complexion, skin dehydration, and minor weight fluctuations. But over time, more pronounced deterioration sets in.
Common signs of physical appearance deterioration include:
Ardu Recovery Center will help you break the cycle of dependence on alcohol. We provide comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction, including medically-monitored detox, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning. Our goal is to help you reclaim sobriety and lifelong wellness.
Alcohol is terrible for your overall health and wellbeing. It may provide short-term pleasure, but its cumulative effects on the body are anything but pleasurable. Long-term excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact nearly every organ and system in your body, leaving you with a wide range of health issues.
The chronic overconsumption of alcohol linked with alcoholism can gradually undermine your physical wellbeing in almost every way imaginable. No system or organ is exempt from potential damage.
The liver is especially vulnerable to alcohol, with heavy drinking leading to fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Liver damage impairs the body’s ability to remove toxins, store nutrients, and produce proteins.
The liver sustains the greatest degree of tissue injury by heavy drinking because it is the primary site of ethanol metabolism. Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption produces a wide spectrum of hepatic lesions, the most characteristic of which are steatosis, hepatitis, and fibrosis/cirrhosis. (Osna, et. al.)
The more you drink, the worse the effects on the liver are. Continued alcohol misuse leads to ongoing inflammation that causes permanent damage. Liver cells become clogged with fat and can get trapped and die off. They are gradually replaced with scar tissue in a process known as fibrosis.
Despite the adverse consequences of alcohol on liver function, when you stop drinking, your liver can actually get better.
Heavy alcohol use causes heart issues such as cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, stroke, and high blood pressure. These are all signs that your cardiovascular health is in trouble. Alcohol weakens the heart muscle and disrupts electrical signaling. Over time, this elevates the risk of heart failure and cardiac arrest.
Research has found that low to moderate amounts of alcohol may be beneficial in reducing inflammatory factors that contribute to heart disease risk and lowering blood pressure.
In healthy adults, consuming low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol each day typically has no short-term (i.e., acute) or substantial impact on hemodynamics or blood pressure (BP). However, data suggest that binge drinking (more than 5 standard drinks in a single sitting) is associated with transient increases in BP.
However, while light drinking may mitigate certain factors, alcohol’s negative impacts can outweigh any potential benefits.
Alcohol has a toxic effect on nerve cells, eventually impairing communication between them and leading to all sorts of side effects. Nerve damage, or neuropathy, is a common effect of heavy alcohol use, causing tingling, numbness, pain, and muscle weakness.
Alcoholic neuropathy is one of the most common adverse effects of chronic alcohol consumption. There is damage to the nerves due to the direct toxic effect of alcohol and the malnutrition induced by it. (Sadowski and Houck)
The exact mechanisms behind this nerve damage are unclear but likely involve inflammation, nutritional deficiency, and alcohol’s direct toxic effects. “Oxidative stress leading to free radical damage to nerves” has been proposed as one explanation for the nerve cell injury.
A weak immune system leaves people more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV. Chronic heavy alcohol consumption impairs both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Essentially, alcohol use cripples the body’s ability to generate adequate immune reactions.
A 2015 review published in Alcohol Research suggests that one effect of alcohol on the immune system is increased gut permeability. This allows bacteria to leak into the bloodstream: “Alcohol consumption also damages epithelial cells, T cells, and neutrophils in the GI system, disrupting gut barrier function and facilitating leakage of microbes into the circulation.”
Heavy drinking also reduces the ability of the liver to fight infections.
Infection with viral hepatitis accelerates the progression of ALD, and end-stage liver disease from viral hepatitis, together with ALD, is the main reason for liver transplantations in the United States.
Catch problems early to beat alcohol addiction before it wreaks extensive damage to your health. If you notice these warning signs of alcoholism in yourself or someone you care about, contact us.
Over time, heavy alcohol use can damage the nervous system, leading to decreased coordination and tremors throughout the body. These effects stem from alcohol’s interference with neurotransmitters that regulate motor skills.
Remember how alcohol enhances GABA neurotransmitter activity in the brain? Increased GABA leads to relaxation and sedation, which is not so bad. Many alcoholics enjoy drinking because it relaxes their bodies and minds. However, as drinking continues, the brain attempts to counteract the excessive GABA by decreasing its receptors. This reduces GABA inhibition, leading to excitability and tremors.
GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, underlying many alcoholic behavioral changes including anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, sedative-hypnotic, cognitive-impairing, and motor-incoordinating actions. Alcohol exerts direct and indirect effects on GABA receptors and GABA release. (Wang, et. al.)
Alcohol also causes thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies, which are critical for proper nerve cell function. Thiamine helps convert nutrients into the energy needed to power neurons. Without adequate thiamine, nerve cells lose function, fire erratically, and cannot properly coordinate signals. This thiamine deficiency essentially starves the nerves, leading to tremors and impaired motor control in alcoholics.
According to the American Addiction Centers, “tremors or shakes are a common sign of alcohol withdrawal but are also warning signs of more serious issues and complications associated with alcohol misuse.” They typically appear first in the hands, caused by damage to cerebellar neurons that control fine motor skills and stability. The alcoholic’s handwriting may become shaky and illegible. Hand tremors make routine tasks like buttoning shirts or unlocking doors challenging.
As nerve cell damage advances, tremors can spread to the arms, head, lips, tongue, jaw, chest, and legs. Standing and walking become unsteady with a widened stance. Leg tremors disrupt gait and balance. Even speech can become difficult due to tremors affecting the tongue, lips, and vocal cords. The voice of an alcoholic may quiver, and they may have issues projecting volume or enunciating words.
It’s vital to seek medical help and immediately stop drinking when you or someone you know experiences these symptoms of alcohol addiction. Vitamin supplements and abstinence can mitigate further neurological deterioration, and, over time, some nerve regeneration and improved coordination are possible.
If you’d like to reap the numerous health benefits of sobriety but are unsure of how to stop drinking, your first step is to contact the experts at Ardu Recovery Center.
Drinking also takes an immense toll on your social, emotional, and behavioral wellbeing. Relationships, finances, careers, and overall stability can become casualties. Even personality and conduct transform as alcohol dependency seeps into every aspect of life.
The following social and behavioral symptoms demonstrate the all-encompassing destruction alcohol addiction wrecks when left unchecked.
Let’s go into each of the six socio-behavioral symptoms of alcohol addiction to explore them further.
People who drink a lot—or too much—tend to be dishonest about it. Lying about drinking is very common with alcoholism, but it stems from a place of deep shame, not malice. As drinking spirals out of control, alcoholics feel the need to cover up the truth to avoid judgment.
They may falsely claim to have had just a few drinks or deny drinking at all. They may also stash liquor bottles and drink secretly before events. Lies about whereabouts often mask time spent drinking, like saying they’re working when at a bar.
Admitting the painful truth can feel impossible without kind support.
Here at Ardu, we understand why dishonesty happens, while we also help alcoholics learn that secrets and silence only worsen addiction. Healing begins when the struggle is brought to light and received with empathy, not anger. We encourage honesty while providing a judgment-free space.
Remember, recovery is possible for any addiction. Contact Ardu Recovery Center and start your healing today.
People with alcohol addiction often spend much of their day preoccupied with thoughts of drinking—when and where they can have their next drink. They feel an intense, urgent need to consume alcohol. This is what’s called an alcohol craving, and it’s another clear sign you’re addicted.
Again, this is connected with your brain’s reward and the way regular drinking triggers dependency. Your brain starts to associate alcohol with a rush of feel-good chemicals. Soon, whenever you’re experiencing stress, boredom, anxiety or other unpleasant states, your brain sees alcohol as the answer. The craving for the pleasure and escape alcohol promises takes over your thoughts. It becomes your brain’s preferred coping mechanism.
A 2015 study suggested that craving is one of the fundamental components of alcohol dependence and often helps distinguish between those with and without alcohol problems. Craving is also associated with treatment outcomes: the greater the craving you feel, the bigger the chances are that you will relapse.
Having a few innocent drinks without cravings or compulsion is very different from feeling like you need alcohol daily. It’s important to recognize out-of-control cravings and preoccupations with alcohol in time and to take steps towards recovery.
The most important part of rehabilitation from alcohol addiction begins with our alcohol abuse and addiction treatment programs. We offer inpatient treatments at our residential facilities, where you receive 24/7 support. Our welcoming staff will help you improve all areas of health and wellness for complete healing.
If you’re looking for a more flexible solution that will allow you to maintain your home and work routines, our outpatient treatment programs might be for you. Contact us to learn more about our outpatient treatment programs, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
An alcoholic may have every intention of only having one or two drinks, but they end up having many more. Or they plan to stop after a certain point but find themselves unable to do so.
If this sounds familiar, you’re looking at another tell-tale sign that you might have an alcohol addiction problem.
Your inability to control alcohol intake happens because addiction has disrupted the brain’s normal impulse control and decision making functions. Alcohol floods the brain’s reward system with feel-good chemicals like dopamine. The more you drink, the more dopamine gets released, creating a euphoric high. In order to keep the party going, you keep the drinks coming.
Saying no to another drink becomes extremely difficult, even when the rational part of the brain is telling you to stop.
Our alcohol detox center can help you break the cycle of dependence on alcohol and provide comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction. Detox is an essential first step, where we safely and comfortably help your body cleanse from alcohol toxins and bring harmony to your brain’s chemical wiring.
Through medically-monitored detox, counseling, group therapy, and aftercare planning, our goal is to help you reclaim sobriety and lifelong wellness.
As alcohol addiction progresses, people often abandon previously enjoyable hobbies, sports, and social engagements. Someone who was once passionate about tennis, woodworking, or book club stops making time for these activities. They decline invitations to dinner parties or sporting events with friends.
The reason for this is quite simple: their brains become hard-wired to enjoy drinking more than playing tennis or chatting about a book. Alcoholics focus purely on obtaining and drinking alcohol as they become addicted to those pleasant boosts in dopamine. But these are short-term effects, and before they know it, they’re addicted to reaching for the bottle in order to prolong that feel-good sensation booze provides.
The addiction narrows life’s focus to the next drink. Hobbies and friends that cannot be enjoyed while drinking get cast aside. This social isolation worsens addiction’s impact by removing positive outlets.
Persistent heavy drinkers may struggle with major responsibilities and duties at work, in school, or at home caring for family. Here’s how this can play out:
Speaking of missed family dinners and parenting duties…
Alcoholism comes with severe social costs. Lies, unpredictable behaviors, unmet promises, and aggression while drinking push away spouses, family members, and friends.
Your spouse or partner often bears the brunt of the chaotic behaviors, broken commitments, and emotional volatility, and it even impacts children. Children of alcoholics suffer from lack of attention and poor role modeling. It isn’t unusual to have your close friendships wither as you become more addicted and isolated.
The economic costs of drinking can also be astronomical, as excessive drinking requires significant funds and leads to instability. Financial resources deplete rapidly from drinking and its impacts, such as losing a job or paying legal fees for drunk driving. When financial instability sets in, it may cause further strain to the alcoholic and their families.
Overcoming alcohol addiction is a challenging but necessary journey. Many alcoholics hit rock bottom financially or socially before they realize their addiction is ruining their and their loved ones’ lives.
But once you hit rock bottom, there’s no other place to go but up.
With professional guidance, compassionate support, and proven treatments, recovery is possible. At Ardu, we offer a full spectrum of alcohol treatment options to help you triumph over alcoholism. Our holistic addiction treatment addresses relationships, finances, and overall well being, not just substance use.
We even help you repair relationships damaged by addiction through counseling, community referrals, and life skills development. Our family-focused therapy will help rebuild trust and stability in your closest relationships damaged by addiction.
People often confuse alcohol abuse with alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction involves alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse may indicate alcohol addiction.
Those battling addiction do not drink because they want to, but because they feel they need to, which puts their drinking problem beyond their rational control. The key to identifying alcoholism is to recognize this lack of control.
The good news is that both abuse and addiction can be treated. Our addiction recovery center is here to guide you through your arduous recovery process, helping you break free from alcohol addiction and regain control of your life. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a healthier, alcohol-free life, contact Ardu Recovery Center today.
Alcohol addiction often progresses through predictable stages as drinking patterns change over time. The stages of alcoholism are:
The middle stages are marked by high-functioning alcoholics who have developed a high tolerance that allows them to drink heavily while still meeting life obligations. As alcoholism continues to progress, it impacts all areas of life over time.
Here at Ardu, we use proven forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral treatment, motivational interviewing, and experiential treatment to disrupt alcohol dependence. Together, we’ll help you rewire and acquire the skills needed for recovery.
Patient care at Ardu goes beyond treating the addiction itself. We’ll help you improve all areas of health and wellness for complete healing of mind, body, and spirit. Our goal is to empower you to thrive in lifelong sobriety.
Each person has their own unique limits to the amount of alcohol they can consume without feeling impaired. Some people may need to abstain completely for health or other reasons. Moderation is always key, but how much is truly moderate or safe to drink?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is considered a low-risk amount.
One “standard” drink equals:
You can reduce the health risks of alcohol if you keep your daily amounts within these limits—or cut it out altogether. Regular excessive drinking—more than four drinks for women and five drinks for men within two hours—is particularly harmful for the brain and body.
If you’re concerned about your drinking, keep track of your daily and weekly consumption and discuss your use with your doctor. Moderation takes mindfulness, but it can help promote health when practiced responsibly.
No matter what signs of addiction you’re showing, alcohol can negatively impact every aspect of your life. We understand that overcoming it is easier said than done, but you don’t have to face it alone.
Our addiction recovery center specializes in helping people with alcohol and other types of addiction break free from the grip of substance dependence. Our addiction specialists can provide support and guidance through all stages of alcohol recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, we can help you start your recovery of social and physical health in a safe, judgment-free environment.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and discuss your unique needs. We are always here to listen and help explain the treatment options available. You can also visit anytime to meet our team and see our facilities.
The main difference between an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic is the level of dependency and its impact on a person’s life. It can be challenging to distinguish between the two because alcohol use and dependence exist on a spectrum.
An alcoholic typically exhibits signs of alcohol addiction, such as cravings, loss of control over drinking, withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, and continuing to drink despite negative consequences. A non-alcoholic may consume alcohol but do so in moderation without experiencing these signs.
Drinking alcohol daily does not automatically make someone an alcoholic. It’s the pattern and context of drinking that matter. Some people can drink daily, but in moderate amounts, without developing alcohol dependence or experiencing negative consequences.
Daily drinking, especially in large quantities, may increase the risk of alcohol-related problems. If you find it challenging to control your drinking, experience cravings, or encounter negative effects on your life due to daily drinking, seek professional help and evaluation for potential alcohol addiction.
Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially life-threatening medical condition that results from consuming a toxic amount of alcohol in a short period of time. It is not uncommon but varies in prevalence based on individual behaviors and circumstances.
The development of alcoholism is influenced by a combination of factors:
Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption can contribute to premature aging. Alcohol is a diuretic that dehydrates the skin, leading to wrinkles and dryness. It can also dilate blood vessels, causing redness and a flushed appearance.
Chronic alcohol use may impair the body’s ability to produce collagen, which is essential for maintaining skin elasticity. Also, alcohol can negatively affect the liver, which plays a crucial role in detoxifying the body. Liver damage can manifest as jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Moderate alcohol consumption is less likely to have significant aging effects compared to heavy alcohol amounts.
Drinking alcohol every night is not uncommon, but it raises concerns about potential health risks and alcohol dependency. Many people have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner on a regular basis without developing alcohol problems.
However, daily drinking can lead to tolerance and the development of alcohol dependence in some individuals, particularly if it escalates over time.
Traditionally, alcoholism has been classified into four types, although it’s worth noting that not everyone fits neatly into these categories, and addiction is a complex condition:
A normal drinker is someone who consumes alcohol in a responsible and controlled manner, without experiencing negative consequences or developing alcohol addiction. Normal drinkers typically limit alcohol intake to one to two standard drinks per day for men and up to one standard drink per day for women, with several alcohol-free days per week. They are able to enjoy alcohol without it significantly impacting their health, relationships, work, or daily life.
A passive drinker is not a commonly recognized term in the context of alcohol use. However, it may refer to someone who is indirectly affected by another person’s drinking habits. For example, a passive drinker could be a family member, friend, or colleague who experiences the negative consequences of someone else’s excessive or problematic drinking, such as disrupted relationships, emotional stress, or financial burdens.
Passive drinkers may be affected by the actions of those who misuse alcohol without necessarily being alcohol-dependent themselves.
Alcoholism is closely associated with mental health issues. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it is considered a substance use disorder and is often co-occurring with various mental health conditions, including depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
This is typically referred to as a dual diagnosis. Alcohol misuse can worsen mental health symptoms and vice versa, creating a complex interplay between alcoholism and mental health.
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