Alcohol Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Alcohol Abuse

Learn About Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol, which can be found in liquor, beer, and wine, is the most commonly abused drug within the country. While often just referred to as “alcohol”, this substance is technically ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. It is developed through the fermentation of starches, yeast, and sugars.

For many, the use of alcohol is part of social gatherings, parties, and religious services. Numerous individuals are able to safely drink alcohol without developing unsatisfactory effects, however millions of other individuals can experience significant damage when they consume alcohol. One of the greatest damages can be the development of alcohol use disorder, or AUD.

 According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the following criteria can indicate the presence of alcohol use disorder. If an individual has serious impairment or upset as a result of his or her alcohol abuse, including two or more of the following within a 12-month period, he or she likely has alcohol use disorder:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol cannot be consumed
  • Consuming larger amounts of alcohol, or drinking for a longer period of time, than intended
  • Needing to drink more alcohol to achieve the desired effect
  • A history of unsuccessful attempts to limit or control one’s alcohol intake
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol even though the individual is aware that his or her use has caused or worsened a physical or psychological issue
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, and recovering from alcohol intake
  • Using alcohol in situations where the individual knows that doing so is physically dangerous
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Limiting or stopping participation in significant activities because of one’s use
  • Being incapable of meeting obligations at school, work, or home because of alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink despite experiencing social or interpersonal issues that result from one’s drinking

The use of alcohol can lead to a variety of issues in all areas of an individual’s life, and defeating AUD can be exceptionally challenging. With appropriate alcohol addiction treatment, however, individuals can make the lifestyle changes necessary to sustain lifelong sobriety.


Alcohol Addiction Statistics

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), more than eight out of every 10 adults in the country have consumed alcohol at least one time their lives, and more than half of all adults in the United States have had one alcoholic drink (at least) within the past 30 days. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that roughly 12% of adult men and approximately 5% of adult women will display symptoms that are consistent with alcohol use disorder each year. Alcohol abuse, which is implicated in almost 90,000 deaths a year, is the third most common preventable cause of death within the country.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction

Numerous factors can influence the likelihood of an individual developing alcohol use disorder, including:

Genetic: Those who have a first-degree relative, like a sibling or parent, who struggles with alcohol use disorder have a much greater risk of developing the same disorder. Researchers note that genetics impact between 40% and 60% of the risk pertaining to the development of alcohol use disorder. Those individuals who are adopted and whose biological parents had AUD are 400% more likely to develop the same disorder than a member of the general population, even if they are being raised by adoptive parents who do not struggle with this disorder. Experts have also shown that specific genes can either increase or decrease an individual’s risk for developing AUD.

Environmental: Alcohol is highly prevalent within the American culture, and it also tends to be readily accepted. For those who are in an environment where alcohol use is accepted, the likelihood of developing a dependency to alcohol can increase dramatically. Other environmental influences on alcohol use disorder can include spending time with peers who abuse alcohol and having a difficult time managing stress.

Risk Factors:

  • Poor coping skills
  • Cultural acceptability of alcohol abuse
  • High levels of impulsivity
  • Peer abuse of alcohol
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Below are some of the most common symptoms linked to the presence of alcohol use disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Unexplained absences from work or school
  • Needing alcohol to celebrate successes or cope with failures
  • Abandoning or limiting participation in significant events
  • Secretiveness regarding one’s whereabouts and/or other activities
  • Neglecting personal or household responsibilities
  • Reckless, risky, and otherwise dangerous behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Tingling or “pins and needles” feelings in fingers and toes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slurring speech
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Poor coordination

Cognitive symptoms:

  •  Inability to make decisions
  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Impaired cognition
  • Alcohol-related amnesia (also known as “blackouts”)

Psychosocial symptoms:

  •  Suicidal ideation
  • Anger and aggressiveness
  • Depression
  • Drastic mood swings


Effects of Alcohol Addiction

The continual abuse of alcohol can lead to a number of dangerous outcomes, some of which can include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Homelessness
  • Financial problems
  • Damage to the liver, pancreas, and heart
  • Gastritis
  • Ulcers
  • Heightened risk for certain cancers
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Social isolation or ostracization
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Lowered performance in school or at work
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Physical injury related to impaired coordination and/or recklessness
  • Family discord

Co-Occurring Disorders

Alcohol Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who are diagnosed with AUD are also at risk for experiencing additional mental illnesses, including:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Conduct disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Know the Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of alcohol withdrawal: Long-term dependence on alcohol can lead to a number of dangerous and painful symptoms if an individual attempts to decrease or stop his or her alcohol use suddenly. Below are some of the most common symptoms linked to alcohol withdrawal:

  • Seizure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Anxiety
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Psychomotor agitation

Effects of alcohol overdose: Alcohol overdose, which is also known as alcohol poisoning, can be tremendously dangerous and possibly deadly. Anyone who shows the following symptoms after consuming alcohol might require immediate medical attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Slowed breathing
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Clammy and/or bluish skin