Alcohol is so widely accepted that even if someone were drinking four or five times per week, you might never suspect that something is wrong. Perhaps you notice your room mate or a family member drinking every night after work. But, they’re drinking to unwind, you might think to yourself. Or you might notice your retired husband drinking every afternoon. Well, he’s retired, you tell yourself. However, at what point does drinking alcohol turn into a problem? How can you tell if drinking has turned into abuse?

Before providing a list of signs to look out for, it’s important to distinguish the difference between problem drinking and addiction. In a previous blog post, we highlighted the differences between the social drinker, the heavy drinker, the problem drinker, and an alcoholic. Essentially, problem drinking is that which goes above and beyond safe levels of alcohol consumption and who experience difficulties as a result. This is may or may not be an addiction. Although problems might result in a person’s life as a result of drinking, he or she may not have a physical and psychological dependence to alcohol.

Someone who is a problem drinker might more easily be able to see how alcohol is interfering with life. However, someone with an addiction, or dependence, may have denial and refuse to accept that the alcohol is negatively affecting his or her life.

Below is a list of signs that indicate a person might have a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol.

  • –Needs more and more amounts of alcohol to satisfy cravings for alcohol
  • –Experiences symptoms of withdrawal when not consuming alcohol, such as tremors or agitation.
  • –Drinks in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • –Drinks more than planned in an evening or drinks more frequently than planned in a week
  • –Does not have the ability to reduce drinking or avoid drinking despite the desire to do so.
  • –Spends much of the time planning, thinking, and acquiring alcohol.
  • –Spends less time with family, at work, or engaging in other personal activities because of drinking
  • –Completely neglects his or her responsibilities.
  • –Continues to drink regularly despite knowing that drinking is creating significant problems in one’s life.


Furthermore, you might recognize that your loved one is having health problems. Drinking, especially excessive drinking such as binging, can increase a person’s chance of diseases, including heartburn, hepatitis, cirrhosis, high blood pressure, or insomnia.

If you’ve already begun to recognize some of the above signs in someone you love, you might also ask yourself the following questions:

  • –Does he speak with slurred speech?
  • –Is he often noticeably drunk?
  • –Is he having health issues because of his drinking?
  • –Does he frequently miss work?
  • –Has he gotten into legal trouble because of drinking and driving?


If you find yourself answering these questions in a way that points to an addiction, contact a mental health professional for immediate support.

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