Alcoholism: Effects, Signs & Symptoms
Alcohol use disorder, or alcohol addiction, is a very serious condition. If you or a family or friend is struggling with drinking, you could be facing serious complications and consequences, including physical and mental health problems, financial and relationship issues and many others. According to the most recent statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) there are 15.1 million adults struggling with an alcohol use disorder, and alcohol is now the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.1
The statistics sound grim, but there is hope for anyone currently trying to stop or moderate their drinking. Treatments for alcohol use disorder are available and effective. If you feel as if you may have an issue with drinking, if you are trying to moderate or stop but keep struggling with it, or if you have a loved one with this problem, reach out for a professional evaluation and treatment plan.
Symptoms and Side Effects of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is the most commonly used mind-altering substance, and although it is legal it can cause serious health problems. If you drink you are far from alone. According to the NSDUH, 86.4 percent of adults have used alcohol during their lifetimes, 70 percent drank in the last year, and nearly 27 percent engaged in binge drinking in the last month.1 Because drinking is such a common and socially accepted behavior, it can be hard to tell if your drinking patterns have become problematic.
One early sign that you may need to moderate your drinking is regularly consuming more than is recommended by experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, to avoid ill health effects. Moderation means no more than one drink per day and seven drinks per week for women, and no more than two per day and 14 per week for men.2 If you regularly drink more than this, it could indicate the beginning of a problem.
Going above moderate drinking does not necessarily mean you have an alcohol use disorder. Only a mental health or addiction professional can tell you if you have an addiction, but use the checklist here to help you decide if you need to seek out an evaluation. Depending on how many of these you meet, you may have a mild, moderate or severe alcohol use disorder:3
- You regularly end up drinking more than you planned to.
- You try to moderate your drinking but can’t seem to do it.
- A lot of your time is spent drinking or recovering with hangovers.
- When you’re not drinking you crave alcohol.
- Your time spent drinking and recovering the next day is starting to affect your home life, school work or your job.
- Relationships with your friends and family are beginning to suffer because of how much you drink.
- You have less time for other activities because of drinking and hangovers.
- More than once, you have been drinking in a situation that put you at risk, such as when you had to drive.
- Drinking is starting to cause or worsen mental or physical health problems, but you continue to drink.
- You need to drink more now than in the past in order to get buzzed or drunk.
- When you stop drinking you start to feel some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and even drink again to relieve them.
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1Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheets – Moderate Drinking.
3National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder.