The Symptoms of Alcoholism
The distinction between heavy drinking and alcoholism is typically based not on the quantity that is being drunk
but on the way, the drinking is affecting the life of the drinker.
There are seven key signs of alcohol dependence:
1. The person develops a tolerance for alcohol. This means that it takes more and more
alcohol to feel the same level of intoxication.
2. The person has withdrawal symptoms. This means that they feel sick when there is no
alcohol in their body. These symptoms include nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
3. The person often drinks more than he does or she had originally intended to drink.
4. The person attempts to cut down or to stop drinking but all attempts on their own are
failures and they just continue to drink more and more.
5. The person spends a lot of time and effort making sure he or she can get alcohol.
6. The person gives up opportunities for social, recreational, and professional activities
because of their drinking.
7. The person continues to drink despite having physical and psychological problems because
of the drinking.
For the purposes of diagnosis among professional diagnosticians, if a person has three of these seven signs then
they are considered alcohol dependent.
There are some other less official type signs that can be used to determine if someone is drinking too much. The
person begins to miss work or is less successful at work. The person seems angry or sad a lot.
The person hits or physically abuses members of the family. The person emotionally abuses members of the family.
The person has blackouts (cannot remember what he or she did while drunk).
The person has hangovers (feels really sick the day after drinking). Alcoholism doe not go away by itself so it
is extremely important for friends and family members who recognize any combination of these symptoms or signs to
encourage the person to seek treatment.
In the long-term alcoholism can cause cirrhosis and cancer of the liver, heart and central nervous system
damage, memory loss, impotence and a high risk of over dosing. People who abuse alcohol may not want to admit that
they have a problem because they are ashamed or embarrassed or maybe even they do not want to change their
Did You Know
For the alcoholic, quitting drinking is extremely difficult and something that
takes time, patience, and dedication. Recovery is not a task that can be entered into lightly or
without reservation. If you don't have access to an AA support group then you have 3 other
You can use self-help books where the alcoholic is taking responsibility for his
own health. This can work well because once the person knows of the problem it becomes easier to
By putting together
their own plan of action and choosing his own techniques, the alcoholic takes an active role
in the recovery process.
The more common techniques include examining the individual’s need for alcohol,
decide whether to quit drinking altogether, or just to cut back, identify the reasons for quitting
drinking and sharing the recovery plan with others.
These are just a few steps that can be involved in self-recovery.
Another thing that someone with alcoholism can do to recover from it is to use a combination of
approaches. This could involve working on self-help issues, going to AA meetings and involving
other people in the process for support.
The benefit of this approach is that you can work on the issues behind the drinking
while at the same time developing some kind of accountability to others. Plus you would be able to
rely on support from people around you when you go through the tough times.
Alcoholism can affect anyone and does not discriminate based on race, age, or circumstances. It is a treatable
disease, but the person seeking treatment must be willing to give it up entirely.
The treatment community for alcoholism typically supports a zero tolerance complete abstinence-based approach
Research has shown that very few alcoholics can simply cut down on their drinking and be able to know when they
have had enough and can stop.
If a family member is worrying you with their behavor when they are drinking, make
arrangements so that you have a safe place to go when their drinking gets out of hand.
Once that tolerance is built up, the body craves the feeling of intoxication and the only way to rid the body
of those cravings is through total abstinence.
Alcoholism, most importantly, is a treatable disease. I cannot always be controlled but there are large success
rates with treatment.
The alcoholic must remember that they will still have the disease even if they are no longer drinking and they
will always be considered to be recovering.