It is not always easy to judge whether a loved one’s drinking habits are within healthy limits or a sign of a bigger problem. Being objective can be difficult when trying to determine if someone has a drinking problem.
It’s important to note that anyone can fall into the trap that is addiction. If you suspect your loved one is drinking too much, the following signs can help determine if you should seek professional treatment.
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1. A high tolerance to alcohol or an inability to stop drinking.
If a loved one is drinking before and after a party or other social situation, they may be hiding an addiction. Chronic drinking patterns often develop as a result of someone trying to alter their reality or self-medicate in order to feel happy or escape negative emotions.
Using alcohol to deal with emotions or external pressures is very risky. Over time, individuals develop a tolerance to alcohol and will require more alcohol in more frequent intervals to achieve the same feeling they had when they first started drinking.
When someone crosses over from light or moderate drinking to heavy or binge drinking, they transition from alcohol use to an alcohol use disorder. When this happens, they have developed a physical and/or psychological dependence on alcohol.
Once tolerance is present, it can be difficult for people to stop drinking, because their bodies are unable to function normally without alcohol in their system. The uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that result after stopping alcohol use can also make it more difficult to stop drinking.
2. Heavy or binge drinking.
If your loved one says to themselves, or you, that they will only have one drink at happy hour, and before you know it they’ve had four or more, this could be a sign of binge drinking behavior. People who binge drink don’t usually know their limits, or want to push past them, when it comes to alcohol.
If your loved one seems surprised when they suddenly pass their limit, they could be drinking too much. Drinking problems develop gradually, because alcohol affects everyone differently. How alcohol affects individuals depends on their genetics, other possible medications they’re taking and whether they just ate a large meal (as food slows the absorption rate of alcohol in the blood).
Researchers theorize that heavy drinking may interfere with how people remember things by disrupting a key brain chemical, glutamate. So if your loved one has ever “forgotten” parts of the night or woken up foggy and unsure of how they got there, they’ve definitely had too much to drink.
3. Sneaking around and hiding alcohol in odd places.
Denial is common in people struggling with alcohol abuse. Both problem drinkers and alcoholics may drink secretly or lie about how much they’ve had to drink. This can be difficult to spot, but it is an important sign of a more severe problem.
If you’re missing alcohol or it’s turning up in odd places, this can be another red flag. According to addiction experts, people with alcohol use disorders are very good at covering up their tracks. When pressed, they can get creative and hide their alcohol in places like a ceiling tile, a hole in the mattress, behind books of shelves and even in sports bottles.
4. Withdrawal symptoms or unexplainable injuries.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs in someone who drinks regularly and then suddenly stops doing so. Withdrawal symptoms are a sure sign someone is drinking too much.
Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- anxiety or nervousness
- jumpiness or shakiness
- mood swings
- inability to think clearly
- rapid heart beat
- nausea and vomiting
Depending on the severity of the addiction, individuals may experience mild to moderate to severe withdrawal. A severe form of alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens, can cause:
- hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- severe confusion
Injuries a person can’t remember getting can also be an indication of a problem. Blackouts and falls commonly occur when someone binge drinks. Falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car accidents and other traumatic injuries can also happen when an individual has too much to drink.
5. Letting responsibilities slide.
A major sign of a drinking problem is when your loved one starts to neglect things that are important to them for the sake of alcohol. When drinking is made the priority over their day-to-day life, they are probably in the danger zone on the problem-drinking spectrum.
Treatment For Those Who May Drink Too Much
If you think your loved one may be struggling with drinking too much, reach out to a formal treatment facility to obtain further guidance on how to approach them about it. The signs above are only the start of recognizing the larger issue.
It is best to have an addiction specialist assess your loved one to determine the severity of their condition and the best route to treat it.
For more on signs that your loved one is drinking too much and treatment options, contact us.
- What Are Symptoms Of An Alcohol Use Disorder? — National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Delirium Tremens — MedlinePlus
- Alcohol Withdrawal — U.S. National Library of Medicine