Be Proactive About the Problem: The Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder
July 21, 2021
Have You Become a Problem Drinker?
So you like to have a drink now and then. Most everyone does, right? It is no big deal.
And sure, you’ve been having a few problems lately. Maybe you missed a couple days of work due to monster hangovers. Maybe you got pulled over and narrowly avoided a driving while intoxicated (DUI) citation. Maybe you have a hole or two in your memory from nights (or even days) when you really tied one on.
Still, you don’t have a problem, right? You have everything under control, right?
Well, maybe. But maybe you do have a problem.
And if you do, the time to do something about it is right now.
Signs You Have a Drinking Problem
Increased Tolerance: Needing to drink more alcohol to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects with the same amount.
Loss of Control: Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol consumed or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control drinking.
Craving: Experiencing a strong urge or desire to drink alcohol.
Neglecting Responsibilities: Failing to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to alcohol use.
Social or Interpersonal Problems: Having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
Activities Given Up: Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
Use in Hazardous Situations: Engaging in alcohol use in situations where it is physically hazardous, such as drinking and driving.
Physical or Psychological Problems: Continuing alcohol use despite knowing it is causing or worsening a physical or psychological problem.
Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing characteristic withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped or reduced. These symptoms can include tremors, sweating, nausea, and anxiety.
Time Spent on Alcohol: Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
Are you ready to take a good hard look at your situation? It might not be easy, but it is necessary—and you have to be honest with yourself.
The Truth About the Consequences
In addition to the various ways, it can upend your day-to-day life (like causing job or relationship stress, financial difficulties, and an increased risk of serious accidents), a substance use disorder—and specifically an alcohol use disorder (AUD)—can cause a number of serious health problems. Those problems include:
Alcohol abuse can have serious and wide-ranging consequences that impact various aspects of a person’s life, including their physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. The severity of these consequences can vary depending on the level and duration of alcohol abuse. Here are some common consequences of alcohol abuse:
1. Physical Health Consequences:
Liver Damage: Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to liver conditions such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and an increased risk of liver cancer.
Cardiovascular Problems: Alcohol abuse can contribute to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), and an increased risk of stroke.
Gastrointestinal Issues: Chronic alcohol use can irritate the digestive tract, leading to gastritis, ulcers, pancreatitis, and an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers.
Neurological Damage: Alcohol can damage the brain, leading to cognitive deficits, memory problems, and an increased risk of conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Weakened Immune System: Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections.
Cancer Risk: Alcohol abuse is associated with an increased risk of various cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast cancer.
2. Mental Health Consequences:
Depression and Anxiety: Alcohol abuse can worsen or contribute to mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
Psychological Distress: Heavy drinking can lead to emotional instability, impaired judgment, and an increased risk of suicide.
Cognitive Impairment: Alcohol can impair cognitive function, leading to problems with decision-making, attention, and memory.
3. Social and Interpersonal Consequences:
Relationship Problems: Alcohol abuse can strain relationships with family, friends, and coworkers due to erratic behavior, neglect of responsibilities, and conflicts.
Isolation: Individuals with alcohol abuse issues may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves.
Legal Issues: Alcohol-related behaviors, such as driving under the influence, public intoxication, or violent behavior, can lead to legal problems and criminal charges.
Financial Strain: Maintaining a heavy drinking habit can lead to financial difficulties due to the cost of alcohol and potential job loss.
4. Safety Risks:
Accidents and Injuries: Alcohol impairs coordination and judgment, increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and injuries.
Drunk Driving: Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is a significant safety hazard and can result in accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
5. Impact on Work and Education:
Decreased Productivity: Alcohol abuse can lead to decreased job performance, absenteeism, and job loss.
Academic Problems: Students who abuse alcohol may experience a decline in academic performance.
6. Legal and Financial Consequences:
Legal Penalties: Alcohol-related offenses can result in legal consequences, such as fines, probation, or imprisonment.
Financial Stress: The cost of alcohol and related expenses can lead to financial instability.
You’ve Identified the Problem. What Comes Next?
Okay, so you have admitted to yourself that you have a drinking problem and acknowledge that the consequences of that problem can be very serious, indeed. That’s a great first step. But what should you do now?
It might be tempting to try to go it alone. Sure, you haven’t been able to stop drinking on your own in the past, but maybe if you try really hard next time, you could do it. Maybe you’ve mentioned your problem to a trusted friend, and they have told you that getting sober is just about willpower or having more faith. Maybe you are afraid you’ll lose your job if your boss finds out about your drinking issues, so you don’t want to take time off to get help.
We want to be clear: substance use disorders—like dependence on alcohol—are brain diseases. They are treatable (though not curable), and treatment is often most effective in a residential treatment environment. Entering a recovery center for detoxification and rehabilitation helps ensure that you get personalized care that addresses not only your substance use disorder but any other disorders or traumas that may be contributing to your reliance on alcohol.
Seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength—and the first step toward getting your life back on track.