Alcohol Use Disorder: When does drinking become a problem?
Drinking alcohol on occasion and in moderation doesn’t indicate a problem for most. But it’s also not unusual to underestimate the severity of your own drinking. According to the CDC, moderate drinking equates to one drink or less per day for women or two drinks or less per day for men. Anything beyond that falls under the heavy or binge drinking category. Does that surprise you? If so, it’s possible you have an alcohol use disorder.
A person’s behavior is also a useful way to gauge if they may have an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol recovery programs often suggest looking for these red flags:
- An inability to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s unsafe, such as driving or swimming.
- Developing a tolerance so that you need to drink more to get the same effect.
- Continuing to drink despite consequences like relationship or job problems.
- Experiencing signs of alcohol withdrawal like nausea, sweating and shaking when you don’t drink.
If any of those sound familiar, you may have an alcohol use disorder. If you’re observing these in someone else, it should be cause for some concern.
Alcohol Use Disorder Signs and Symptoms
When a person is consuming alcohol to excess, it’s difficult to hide all the signs. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, so a person who is acting under the influence may behave inappropriately. The reaction to alcohol varies from person to person, but it can take the form of being overly friendly or amorous or irritable and trying to pick a fight.
Physical signs that someone is under the influence include slurred speech and compromised coordination and balance. The smell of alcohol on a person’s breath is pretty unmistakable, too, if you’ve ever smelled it.
But what if the person you suspect of having an alcohol use disorder is careful not to drink in your presence? In that case, there are other behavioral and physical signs to watch for.
Some “functioning alcoholics” are remarkably adept at showing up for work and powering through a hangover, and somehow holding their lives together, albeit with duct tape and baling wire. But the signs are still there. It’s hard to hide a hangover.
Someone with an alcohol use disorder is also more apt to have financial trouble. Whether it’s because of mammoth bar tabs or irresponsible spending while on a bender, it is something frequently seen—a person dependent on alcohol will almost always plan things around drinking. Do you have a friend who will bail out on an otherwise fun activity unless they can drink during it? Do you avoid places where you won’t be able to drink?
Finally, there are the physical effects that come from consuming alcohol to excess. Redness of the eyes is a common one. Shaking or trembling hands is another, particularly in the later stages of alcohol dependence; it becomes hard to hide shaking when alcohol is unavailable. The longer someone drinks to excess, the more pronounced the physical signs become.
Alcohol rehabilitation programs are full of patients with digestive problems like gastritis or esophageal ulcers. Liver problems, such as cirrhosis, can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes and bleeding and bruising easily. Swelling of the legs or belly is another side effect of a hard-drinking lifestyle.
How to Get Help
At this point, it may be clear to you that you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol. Perhaps you suspected already but the information laid out before you makes it impossible to deny. Undoubtedly, the next question in your mind is, “What can I do about it?”
The answers are simpler than you might expect. Simple does not always mean easy, of course, but there isn’t a lot of guesswork here. Alcohol recovery programs have a solid track record of helping people transform their lives. Much research has been done on alcohol and drug dependency in recent decades. Alcohol rehabilitation programs are more effective today than ever before.
Are you worried about a friend or loved one? Read about how to help your addicted friend here. If your own relationship with alcohol has you concerned, then it’s time for some reflection and honesty with yourself. Chances are you have already tried to limit your drinking with mixed results. Some part of you, at least, recognizes that you could benefit from some outside help.
Let’s talk about what we can do to help you or your loved one reclaim their life. We know what it’s like to live with an alcohol use disorder, and we know how to support you in healing.
Give us a call anytime; Promises Brazos Valley can help 19794260086