Spotting the Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Feb 20, 2023
Spotting the Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and the devastating consequences it causes. Like other types of substance abuse, alcohol addiction can be treated. The key is recognizing symptoms early so treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Nearly 15 million Americans suffer from an alcohol use disorder or addiction, according to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and every year, almost 100,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. That makes alcoholism the third-leading cause of preventable death among Americans.

While ultimately, the effects of alcohol addiction are dramatic, the early signs of alcohol use disorder are often far more subtle. Learning to recognize those signs can help you get treatment — for yourself or for a loved one — as soon as possible, before health problems occur, and when kicking the habit can be a lot easier.

The team at MindMD helps patients overcome alcohol abuse problems with patient-centered addiction treatment and outpatient detox services available through their Beverly Hills, California, practice. In this post, they review some of the signs that can help you spot an alcohol-related problem so you or your loved one can seek appropriate help.

Signs to look for

Many people reach for a drink to help them unwind or decompress, and it can be hard to know if you’re suffering from alcohol use disorder or if those drinks are an occasional indulgence you don’t really “need.” These signs can help you spot a possible abuse or addiction problem so you can seek help for yourself or for your loved one.

Some of the most common signs to know about include:

  • Drinking more alcohol to reach a desired effect
  • Choosing drinking over other activities you once enjoyed
  • Spending more and more time drinking or obtaining alcohol
  • Frequently thinking about your next drink
  • Continuing to drink in spite of health or social problems
  • Skipping family or work functions because of your drinking habit
  • Problems at work or school due to drinking
  • Financial problems associated with funding your drinking
  • Relationship issues attributable to your drinking
  • Drinking to the point of blacking out
  • Binge drinking
  • Leaning on alcohol to function during the day
  • Multiple failed attempts to quit
  • Suffering from withdrawal when you attempt to quit

The number of symptoms you have and their severity help determine if your alcohol problem is mild, moderate, or severe, which determines the best approach to treatment.

Medical assessments for alcohol use disorder

In addition to personal observation, there are medical tools that can help identify an alcohol use disorder. One of those tools is called the CAGE assessment based on four initials — C, A, G, E — included in these four key questions:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking? 
  • Do people annoy you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever needed a drink when you wake up (an eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

The CAGE assessment is a screening tool used for early evaluation. Depending on your results, additional testing might be used, including these criteria included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5):

  • Craving or strong desire for alcohol
  • Repeated failures to cut back on drinking
  • Alcohol use that interferes with work, school, or personal obligations
  • Drinking more than intended, especially over time
  • Needing more alcohol to achieve the desired effect (tolerance)
  • Withdrawal symptoms when cutting back on alcohol consumption
  • Recurrent alcohol use in dangerous situations, such as driving

A person receives an alcohol use disorder diagnosis when they have two or more criteria on the expanded list in a 12-month period.

Take control of your addiction

There is no cure for substance abuse, but there are safe, effective ways to manage the causes of addiction and enjoy a life free of unhealthy behaviors. At MindMD, we know substance use disorders can be devastating, and our team works closely with every individual patient to design a treatment plan for optimal success. 

Most people benefit from a combination of different therapies to address the multiple facets of addiction. At our practice, we offer options like:

  • Individual psychotherapy to address the root causes of abuse problems
  • Group therapy to provide support and connection with others
  • Medication aimed at reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Treatment for other issues, like depression or anxiety
  • Lifestyle changes and access to support groups, like AA

Your treatment plan will evolve over time as you progress along your path to sobriety.

If you suspect you or a loved one has an alcohol abuse or addiction issue, don’t ignore the warning signs. Call 424-307-9504 or book an appointment online with MindMD today to learn how we can help.