Drinking alcohol in moderation is generally regarded as being safe, but for some people, alcohol consumption can become a problem. When a person develops an alcohol addiction, many people refer to the condition as “alcoholism” but the politically correct diagnostic term for alcoholism is an alcohol use disorder. So, what are the alcoholism warning signs? Learn the answer, as well as information about medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, below.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is the colloquial term for an “alcohol use disorder,” which is the proper diagnostic term for an alcohol addiction. When people make reference to alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder, they are referencing a legitimate medical condition that develops in response to lasting brain changes caused by alcohol misuse.
When a person has an alcohol use disorder, they will engage in compulsive drinking, even when alcohol consumption causes serious consequences, such as health problems, marital conflict, or job loss. This is because brain changes from alcohol consumption lead to the development of a brain disorder. Fortunately, there is treatment available for alcohol use disorders.
Who Is At Risk Of Alcoholism?
The risk of alcohol use disorder is typically higher among people who drink heavily or engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting for a woman or five or more drinks in one sitting for a man. Regular binge drinking, as well as heavy alcohol use, which is defined as more than 14 drinks in one week for a man and more than seven drinks in a week for a woman, increases the risk that a person will develop an alcohol use disorder.
Other risk factors for an alcohol use disorder include:
- Drinking for the first time before the age of 15, compared to waiting until the age of 21 for the first alcoholic drink
- Growing up with parents who drink heavily
- Genetic factors, which are believed to be responsible for as much as 60% of the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder
- Having a history of child abuse or trauma
- Living with a mental health condition like depression
Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Being aware of alcohol warning signs can help you to intervene early on behalf of yourself or a loved one, before alcohol addiction becomes more severe. Below are some of the common warning signs of an alcohol use disorder.
Drinking To Treat Stress
One of the early signs of alcohol addiction is drinking in order to relax or improve sleep. In fact, experts often divide alcohol use disorder into four stages, and the first stage, called the pre-alcoholic stage, involves drinking in order to relax. People may not experience obvious consequences from alcohol misuse at this stage, but they are self-medicating with alcohol use, which can lead to problems down the road.
Having a drink or two on special occasions or enjoying a glass of wine with dinner typically isn’t problematic. However, a person who drinks daily, especially in large quantities, may be showing alcoholism warning signs. Someone who is developing an alcohol addiction may always have a drink in their hands at social functions.
Consuming Larger Amounts Than Intended
Someone who is developing an alcohol addiction will begin to consume larger amounts than intended. They may say they are only going to have a drink or two, but they end up drinking to the point of intoxication, because they are struggling to control their alcohol use.
Drinking Despite Consequences
Continuing to drink, even when faced with consequences, is a sign that a person is experiencing brain changes that lead to compulsive alcohol consumption. A person showing alcohol warning signs may continue to drink, even when their spouse argues with them about their alcohol consumption, or when they experience troubles at work due to drinking. They may also continue to drink when faced with health problems arising from alcohol misuse.
Strong Alcohol Cravings
A person who is showing signs of a drinking problem is likely to have strong alcohol cravings. In more severe cases, cravings may be so strong that a person is unable to think about anything other than the desire to drink. Some people may even drink first thing in the morning to alleviate cravings.