10 Common Signs of a Drinking Problem | Beach House (2022)

10 Common Signs of a Drinking Problem | Beach House (1)

The disease of alcoholism wears many masks. Recognizing signs of alcoholism for what they are can be a real challenge to friends and family of those with a drinking problem. That’s because a diagnosable addiction to alcohol—defined by compulsive drinking behaviors like binge drinking that continue despite negative consequences—thrives in secret.

What was once seemingly harmless social drinking, and is now a full-blown alcohol use disorder, can thus prove difficult to catch—not to mention to stop in its tracks. Even the most obvious warning signs, symptoms, and side effects can go unnoticed, (and worse yet, untreated), when the masks that addiction wears elude recognition by those best positioned to notice them.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes or Columbo to determine whether a loved one is struggling with and hiding alcohol dependence. There are some reliable, telltale signs of a drinking problem you can spot without being a brilliant, world-class sleuth. Knowing and being on the alert for these ten signalscan go a long way to helping friends and family identify the signs of a drinking problem and seek treatment for it.

Sign 1: A high tolerance for alcohol

“Tolerance” refers to the body’s response to the functional effects of alcohol—in other words, how quickly someone under the influence of alcohol becomes intoxicated and impaired. The degree to which the body tolerates alcohol’s effects depends on how long one has been drinking and how much one has been drinking. Over time, the more one drinks, the more alcohol they need to achieve the same effects—and, in turn, the higher their tolerance levels. “Functional tolerance” thus describes how chronic drinkers with very high blood alcohol concentrations can still operate with seemingly little behavioral impairment.

A longstanding pattern of chronic over-consumption of alcohol is a surefire determinant of high tolerance—if not the only one.

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Genetic predisposition can be a determining factor as well, as studies comparing children of alcoholic fathers to children of non-alcoholic fathers indicate. Researchers have even discovered what they call an “alcohol tolerance gene”: those who have it reportedly are both better at holding their drink and more prone to abusing alcohol. Other factors, like weight, ethnicity, age, gender and even perception, can also affect how quickly intoxication develops and one’s overall tolerance.

If you’re unsure whether a loved one displays a high tolerance for alcohol, ask yourself the following: Do they show signs of intoxication and impairment after drinking three drinks over the course of an hour? (That’s typically the amount required for the average, 155-pound male to get tipsy.) If not, they may indeed have a high tolerance.

Sign 2: Hiding alcohol in unlikely places

Chances are that if that prized, souvenir bottle of tequila from last year’s trip to Mexico suddenly goes missing from your liquor cabinet, only to turn up beneath your son’s bed or in a spouse’s desk drawer, alcohol abuse may be the culprit.

Alcoholics are masters of covering up their tracks, addiction experts say. Recovering alcoholic William Moyers is the first to admit it: For every drink he’d have in a public setting, he’d have another stashed away in the bathroom. His spouse had no clue, he told NBC News.

Other alcoholics are even more creative, hiding their fix under ceiling tiles, in hollowed-out mattresses, behind books on bookcases—even in sports bottles in the back of their cars.

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Sign 3: Drinking before and after parties and other social drinking situations

If a loved one is drinking before and after a party or other social situation, they may also be nursing an addiction under the radar and out of sight. A compulsive drinking problem often manifests itself as an internalized sense of shame on the part of the person struggling, with the result that they often do the bulk of their drinking in secret and alone, rather than in public.

As they develop higher alcohol tolerance over time, they can also find themselves needing to drink more to achieve the same effects. Heavy drinking in private serves this purpose also.

Sign 4: Mysterious and otherwise unexplainable injuries

If a loved one is frequently getting sick or falling prey to bumps, bruises, sprains and cuts, without an adequate explanation as to why, they may be hiding an alcohol use disorder.

It’s not unusual for injuries to happen in the course of an episode of binge drinking after all. Blackouts and falls are common signs of excess drinking. Consider the experience of one alcoholic who, while in her 40s, broke her foot stumbling down some stairs, after drinking more than 20 beers in one sitting. (When her mother asked what happened, the woman was too ashamed to tell the truth—so she made something up.)

Such experiences are common among those who abuse alcohol. Researchers at Northwestern University set out to study the health effects of binge drinking among college students, and found that one in four will harm themselves while drinking. As blackout rates went up, so did physical injuries, such as falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car accidents and other traumatic injuries. (Strikingly, one in three trauma patients have alcohol in their system.)

A lesser-known fact is how binge drinking compromises the body’s immune system, as another study found.

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Sign 5: Using vodka to disguise one’s drinking

The hard liquor, vodka, is a great enabler of efforts to conceal a drinking problem. Vodka’s very high alcohol volume—40 percent—is an easy quick “fix” for alcoholics. It’s also colorless and doesn’t smell, so it’s easy to smuggle. Some alcoholics spike their morning coffee with it. Others slip it into sports bottles, topping it off with an energy drink like Gatorade.

The habit is more common than you’d think: An article in The Atlantic reported that roughly one in four people in their early 20s have mixed vodka with an energy drink of one kind or another. Those who drink alcoholic energy beverages also happen to drink more heavily and for longer periods than those who drink just booze, researchers found. They cited what they believe may be a “masking effect”: those who drank alcoholic energy drinks were more likely to underestimate their intoxication and drink more.

Sign 6: Lying about one’s drinking

Hiding liquor—whether in the trunk of a car, under a pile of linen in the laundry room, or in other odd places—is one form of lying. But there are other forms. The most obvious example: if your loved one comes home intoxicated, the smell of liquor strong on their breath, yet still denies they were drinking or at the bar. Another subtler form of lying that can be very common, according to a recent study of drinkers in England: lying about one’s weekly alcohol intake to a family physician.

Sign 7: Extreme mood swings

As a depressant, alcohol can cause potentially dramatic negative changes in mood and behavior— especially when consumed in excess. For people who binge drink, the morning after a bender can be fraught with depressive symptoms, for example.

There is also the fact that under the influence, many heavy drinkers can become irritable, aggressive and in some cases violent putting their own life and the lives of others at risk. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has noted that scientists have long recognized a two-way association between alcohol consumption and violence and aggression.

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Alcohol also interferes with sleep. This in turn can introduce changes in mood characterized by irritability, anxiety and depression.

Sign 8: Problems at home, work or school

Alcohol is among the most used drugs in the workplaceand a habit of excess alcohol is bound to cause issues at work or school— if not immediately then eventually. Even high-functioning alcoholics will ultimately suffer the negative consequences of a drinking problem. These can include:

  • Showing up late to work or school
  • More absenteeism
  • Mistakes on the job
  • Poorer grades
  • Compromised productivity
  • Altercations with peers, colleagues, teachers and/or supervisors
  • An inability to manage chores, finances or other domestic responsibilities
  • Problems in family relationships

Sign 9: Legal problems

It is not uncommon for alcoholism that goes untreated to result in troubles with the law, such as:

  • A DUI (Drinking Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge
  • A citation for public intoxication (for disturbing the peace when drunk)
  • A charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • And, in rarer cases, charges of assault, domestic violence or theft

These symptoms of excessive drinking can create long-term damages on home, personal life, and careers. If your loved one has recurrent alcohol-related legal issues, it is very possible they are masking a drinking problem. If you are concerned your loved one has a problem, get help organizing an intervention.

Sign 10: Inability to quit

Previously unsuccessful attempts to quit may also indicate your loved one has issues with alcohol. If they have gone through one or more cycles of remorse about a drinking habit, followed by the resolution to stop drinking, they may not be able to quit on their own and may need professional intervention.

Diagnosing Alcoholism:Assessment, Detox and Treatment

Spotting the above signs is only the start in determining whether a loved one has a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. But it’s an important start. Only an assessment by an addiction professional can ultimately determine whether a loved one’s drinking problem is a diagnosable addiction that will benefit from detox and treatment.

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For more information about how to get help for a loved one, see the following related articles:

  • Alcohol Detox Guide
  • Alcohol Abuse: How to Get Help
  • The Complete Guide to Drug and Alcohol Intervention
  • What’s the Success Rate of Alcohol Recovery?
  • What to Ask an Interventionist to Find the Best One for Your Situation


How can you tell someone is a problem drinker? ›

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Frequently drinking a larger amount of alcohol or for longer than intended.
  • Wanting to cut down or control drinking but not being able to stop.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking and feeling sick from alcohol's aftereffects.
  • Experiencing strong cravings or urges to drink.
20 Jan 2020

What are some signs that a person is has a drinking problem provide at least 3 examples? ›

Some of the most common physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse are:
  • Poor coordination.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Impaired thinking.
  • Memory impairment.
  • Wanting to stop drinking but not managing to do so.
  • Diverting energy from work, family, and social life in order to drink.
9 Sept 2022

What are the five symptoms of an alcoholic? ›

What are the 3 stages of drinking? ›

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program. What Are the 3 Stages…
What Are the 3 Stages of Alcoholism?
  • Early Stage of Alcoholism. The first of the 3 stages of alcoholism occurs when a problem drinker has slipped into the early stages of dependence. ...
  • Middle Stage of Alcoholism. ...
  • End Stage of Alcoholism.
19 Mar 2021

What is a secret drinker? ›

What is Secret Drinking? Secret drinking is a common practice among alcoholics who have a high tolerance for alcohol. Because they have to drink more to get the desired effect from alcohol, they might secretly drink before an event; some even have a name for this — pregaming.

What are signs that you are drinking too much alcohol? ›

Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.

What are some signs that a person may be a problem drinker quizlet? ›

What are some signs that a person may be a problem drinker? drinking to avoid facing problems, preferring to drink alone, trying but failing to stop drinking, or lying about drinking.

What classifies a person as an alcoholic? ›

For men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week.

What is harmful drinking? ›

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ( NICE ) defines harmful drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that causes health problems, including psychological problems such as depression, alcohol-related accidents or physical illness such as acute pancreatitis.

How does alcohol affect the brain? ›

Alcohol interferes with the brain's communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Alcohol makes it harder for the brain areas controlling balance, memory, speech, and judgment to do their jobs, resulting in a higher likelihood of injuries and other negative outcomes.

What happens when you drink alcohol everyday? ›

Long-Term Health Risks. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including: High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

Does drinking everyday make you an alcoholic? ›

Myth: I don't drink every day OR I only drink wine or beer, so I can't be an alcoholic. Fact: Alcoholism is NOT defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even how much you drink. It's the EFFECTS of your drinking that define a problem.

Do alcoholics sleep a lot? ›

Recovery and Relapse.

Abstinent alcoholics tend to sleep poorly, with decreased amounts of SWS and increased nighttime wakefulness that could make sleep less restorative and contribute to daytime fatigue (22). Resumption of heavy drinking leads to increased SWS and decreased wakefulness.

Which stage of alcoholism is the most difficult to recover from? ›

Late alcoholism, Stage 4, is the most difficult stage for most people to recover from. You or someone you love may have short periods of being sober, but stress will likely bring on drinking, getting in trouble, and feeling ashamed and guilty.

Can doctors tell if liver damage is caused by alcohol? ›

Your healthcare provider will do a complete health history and physical exam. Other tests used to diagnose alcohol-induced liver disease may include: Blood tests. Including liver function tests, which show whether the liver is working the way it should.

Can you smell vodka on someone's breath? ›

No, you cannot smell someone drinking vodka because it is odorless.

Where do you hide alcohol? ›

7 places to hide alcohol when your parents visit
  • In your roommate's stuff. ...
  • In your sock drawer. ...
  • In your laundry hamper. ...
  • In your desk drawer, under the textbooks. ...
  • In your trash can. ...
  • In with your toiletries. ...
  • Consume it. ...
  • Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.
27 Sept 2016

How do you hide drinking? ›

If you want to hide the fact you're drinking, use mouth wash, breath strips, and mint flavored gum. Try to always be chewing on something with a strong odor, like foods with red onions and garlic, in order to cover up the smell. Use eye drops. Some people are prone to bloodshot eyes when drinking.

What happens if you drink too much water daily? ›

When you drink too much water, your kidneys can't get rid of the excess water. The sodium content of your blood becomes diluted. This is called hyponatremia and it can be life-threatening.

How does alcohol affect human behavior? ›

Alcohol affects the part of your brain that controls inhibition, so you may feel relaxed, less anxious, and more confident after a drink. But these effects quickly wear off. The chemical changes in your brain can soon lead to more negative feelings, such as anger, depression or anxiety, regardless of your mood.

What are 3 ways that teens who drink put themselves at risk for physical harm? ›

identify 3 ways that teens who drink put themselves at risks for physical harm. being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash, committing or being the victim of sexual assault or other violence, and long-term brain damage.

What is the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism quizlet? ›

Alcohol abuse is drinking too much alcohol drinking. Alcoholism is a disease that causes a person to lose control of his or her drinking behavior.

What effect does drinking have on sleep patterns? ›

According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep.

What are the 4 types of drinker? ›

There are four types of drinkers, each with different motivations, which include the social drinker, conformity drinker, enhancement drinker, and coping drinker. People consume alcohol for many different reasons.

What does it mean if you drink alone? ›

If you find that you are often drinking alone, this may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues. Many people drink alcohol in order to cope with unwanted feelings or emotions such as sadness, depression, frustration, abandonment, etc.

How many drinks a week will damage your liver? ›

Bellentani et al report a risk threshold for both non-cirrhotic and cirrhotic liver disease of 21 drinks per week in men and women with a step-wise increase in risk with increasing intake. The lifetime intake threshold for disease was 100 kg.

What is normal drinking habits? ›

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking is considered to be in the moderate or low-risk range for women at no more than three drinks in any one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

What is responsible drinking? ›

Definition of Responsible Drinking

Responsible drinking means more than just limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks. It also means not getting drunk and not letting alcohol control your life or your relationships.

Which alcohol is good for health? ›

Red wine appears to be particularly beneficial because it is very high in healthy antioxidants. In fact, red wine is linked to more health benefits than any other alcoholic beverage ( 74 , 75 , 76 , 77 , 78 ).

What alcohol makes you angry? ›

Sign up to our free Morning Headlines email. Spirits are the most likely alcohol type to illicit feelings of aggression, while red wine most likely to make people relaxed, a new study shows.

What does a drunk mind speak? ›

“A drunk mind speaks a sober heart” is a saying often attributed to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, himself quite a drunk. The idea is that when we are drunk we lose our inhibitions and allow ourselves to verbalize our true thoughts and feelings, bringing our true personality traits to light.

How does alcohol affect memory? ›

Alcohol affects short-term memory by slowing down how nerves communicate with each other in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a significant role in helping people form and maintain memories. When normal nerve activity slows down, short-term memory loss can occur.

Which alcohol is best for heart? ›

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent coronary artery disease, the condition that leads to heart attacks.

How long do you have to drink before liver damage? ›

Alcohol Related Cirrhosis: The most serious form of ALD, it occurs when the entire liver is scarred, causing the liver to shrink and harden. This can lead to liver failure. Usually the damage cannot be reversed. Between 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis typically after 10 or more years of drinking.

What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol? ›

Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)
  • feeling sick.
  • weight loss.
  • loss of appetite.
  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • swelling in the ankles and tummy.
  • confusion or drowsiness.
  • vomiting blood or passing blood in your stools.

Who is most likely to become an alcoholic? ›

Individuals in their early to mid-twenties are the most likely to abuse alcohol and suffer from alcohol use disorders. The younger that an individual starts consuming alcohol, the more likely they are to develop alcoholism later in life. This is especially true of individuals who start drinking before 15.

What is heavy drinking? ›

Heavy drinking: For women, heavy drinking is 8 drinks or more per week. For men, heavy drinking is 15 drinks or more per week.

Can you drink a lot and not be an alcoholic? ›

In fact, 90 percent of those who drink too much aren't dependent on alcohol. But one in three adults drinks to excess, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "A lot of people mistakenly assume that people who drink too much are alcoholics," said study co-author Dr.

What does an alcoholic look like face? ›

Redness in the face, especially the nose and cheeks - There are many facial signs of alcoholism, including enlarged blood vessels, causing redness in the face. In the long term, these vessels can over-dilate, leading to spider veins on the skin.

In which stage of alcoholism does the drinker face serious? ›

End-stage alcoholism is the most serious point to reach. It's evident when someone is at the end-stages of their alcohol addiction. They see severe impacts on their health, relationships, employment, finances, and overall satisfaction with life.

Do alcoholics feel cold all the time? ›

Alcohol actually makes you colder

But this also means that your body's core temperature drops as the warm blood moves away, so even though you're feeling warm, your body is actually getting colder.

What are the 4 levels of addiction? ›

There are four levels of addiction: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We will discuss each level in-depth and provide tips for overcoming addiction. Most people who try drugs or engage in risky behaviors don't become addicted.

How do I know I'm an alcoholic? ›

Some of the most common symptoms of alcohol abuse are: Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss. Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings. Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal.

What are signs that your liver is struggling? ›

  • Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
  • Abdominal pain and swelling.
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Dark urine color.
  • Pale stool color.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
8 Apr 2022

How can I check my liver at home? ›

Healthline's picks of the best at-home liver tests
  1. LetsGetChecked Liver Test.
  2. Lab.Me At Home Crucial Health Check.
  3. Health Testing Centers Expanded Liver Panel.
  4. Walk-In-Lab Hepatic Function (Liver) Panel Blood Test.
30 Jun 2022

How do I know if my liver is OK? ›

What are the signs and symptoms of liver disorders?
  1. tiredness and fatigue.
  2. loss of appetite.
  3. weight loss.
  4. low sex drive (libido)
  5. jaundice — when you have too much bilirubin, it causes yellow skin and eyes, and itchy skin.
  6. nausea and vomiting.
  7. diarrhoea.
  8. abnormal bruising and bleeding.

What do you do when a family member won't stop drinking? ›

How to cope with a family member's problem drinking
  1. Look after your own needs. ...
  2. Recognise that harmful drinking affects you too. ...
  3. Keep yourself and others safe from harm. ...
  4. Know that you're not to blame. ...
  5. Don't feel you have to solve the problem. ...
  6. Learn about dependence and recovery. ...
  7. Talk to other people. ...
  8. If you have children.

What do you do if someone has too much alcohol? ›

How to help someone showing signs of alcohol poisoning 5
  1. Try to keep them awake and sitting up.
  2. Give them some water (and nothing else), if they can drink it.
  3. Lie them on their side in the recovery position if they've passed out, and check they're breathing properly.
  4. Keep them warm.
  5. Stay with them and monitor their symptoms.

What does it mean when a guy only wants you when he's drunk? ›

He's facing severe internal conflict

They don't know whom to turn to, and you're the closest person. So, his inhibitions are lowered when he gets drunk, and he genuinely wants someone to talk to and emotionally bond with. It could be a sign that he's just looking for anyone to bond with.

How do you help someone who is a heavy drinker? ›

How To Help Someone You Know Who Drinks too Much
  1. Step 1: Talk. Talk about your worries when the person is sober. ...
  2. Step 2: Offer your help. Suggest activities that don't include drinking alcohol. ...
  3. Step 3: Take care of yourself. Caring for someone with alcohol misuse or use disorder can be stressful.
22 Sept 2022

Why would someone hide their drinking? ›

People with a drinking problem become adept at concealing it. There are several reasons for this - they may wish to protect their loved ones so they don't worry, or wish to hide their addiction from their employer to avoid damaging their career. All this deception can build a pressure of its own.

Should I let a drunk person sleep? ›

The person can simply stop breathing.

Your blood alcohol level can still rise whilst you're asleep and lead to alcohol poisoning. That's the big deal… putting a drunk person to sleep doesn't automatically remove the undigested alcohol from their system. They're body still needs to process it and break it down.

What does being drunk do to your personality? ›

After drinking, participants reported lower levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness, and they reported higher levels of extraversion and emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism).

What is a word for very drunk? ›

intoxicated. drunken. inebriated. legless (informal) merry (British, informal)

How do you know if a man misses you? ›

Texting you frequently, talking about you when with friends or others, getting jealous, drunk texting or calling you, trying everything he can to keep the conversation going, and so on are signs he misses you.

Why are drunks more affectionate? ›

"With larger doses of alcohol, not only can a person lower their inhibitions, but their emotions can also be altered," Glasner explains. This combination of decreased inhibition and increased emotion can create a perfect storm for physical affection.

Why do guys drunk text their ex? ›

An intoxicated ex-lover might text you to get validation or affection when they haven't found it from anyone else. Unresolved feelings. A drunk person who hasn't worked through their past could be seeking closure for the way a relationship ended.

Does the truth come out when drunk? ›

Alcohol stifles reasoning skills and contemplating repercussions. As a result, people are more likely to tell the truth while intoxicated, offering up brutally honest, unfiltered opinions. And without the fear of consequences, alcohol can give people the courage to do or say things they ordinarily wouldn't entertain.


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