Signs Your Loved One Is Drinking Too Much
Your loved one doesn’t have to hit rock-bottom before you realize they’re drinking too much. Be aware of the signs, because it’s never too early (or too late) to seek help for a drinking problem.
When someone is drinking too much, they may struggle to feel good without alcohol, get stressed out often and have a hard time making decisions. This behavior is a recipe for disaster and it’s important to catch the signs as early as possible. Researchers and treatment professionals agree the earlier a person seeks treatment, the better chances they have at recovery.
But, what does problem drinking look like? And, how do you know if they’re drinking too much?
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
Excessive drinking often means a person partakes in heavy drinking or binge drinking on a regular basis. Binge drinking is common and involves several drinks over the course of one day or night. For men, binge drinking occurs after five or more drinks in a single occasion, compared to four or more for women.
Heavy drinking is based on how many drinks someone has per week. For women, it’s eight or more, and for men, it’s fifteen or more. Alcohol affects each person differently, so how much is too much can vary from person to person. If you suspect your loved one is drinking too much, pay attention to these troubling signs.
Signs Your Loved One Is Drinking Too Much
Drinking problems develop gradually and can take hold before you know it. Your loved one may be drinking too much if they’re:
- always hungover in the morning – Moderate consumption of alcohol shouldn’t lead to a hangover, which is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 for men. If they’re hungover every day, they likely drink in excess.
- drinking every day – They’re expecting a drink every night, or they complain they can’t relax or function without one.
- drinking more than intended – You may notice he/she never has just one or two drinks. Once they start, they keep going. Alcohol problems arise from drinking too much, too fast.
- overdrinking and getting sick – If your loved one often gets sick because of drinking, they may routinely have high blood alcohol levels, which can lead to hospitalization. Signs of alcohol poisoning include passing out, vomiting, stupor and confusion.
- experiencing gaps in memory – Temporary blackouts or memory loss is common for those struggling with alcohol abuse. You may notice your loved one has trouble remembering entire nights, meeting people, eating or going to bed.
- hiding alcohol use or keeping it stashed away – They may have a hidden stash, secretly drink throughout the day or take extreme measures to hide it from friends and family.
- being confronted about their drinking – Maybe a co-worker, friend or family member has confronted them about their drinking habits. Know your loved one may be in denial about their drinking.
- drinking alone – Drinking alone doesn’t necessarily mean a person is drinking too much. But, drinking alone more than with other people can indicate a problem.
- neglecting responsibilities – He/she may call into work more often than they used to. They might favor drinking over family responsibilities, relationships and other duties at home.
- experiencing symptoms of withdrawal – Once the buzz from alcohol wears off, they experience uncomfortable symptoms. It’s not uncommon for them to continue drinking to avoid withdrawal, continuing the cycle of addiction.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Your loved one may also show some general signs of addiction. Although addiction affects each person differently, consider the following signs:
- loss of control over alcohol use – they drink more than they want to, for longer than intended or despite saying to themselves they wouldn’t drink.
- risky behaviors – they may drink and drive, have open intoxicants out in public and do other things that risk their health and safety.
- changing appearance – they may neglect personal hygiene and appear more disheveled, unclean and sloppier than they used to.
- family history – they may have relatives who have suffered from alcohol abuse and addiction, increasing their chances of developing a problem.
- tolerance – they have drunk so much that their body has adjusted to having alcohol in the system, and they require more to achieve the desired effects.
- withdrawal – they feel sick and experience unpleasant symptoms when the effects wear off. These symptoms can include anxiety or jumpiness, sweating, shaking, nausea, irritability, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
- continued use despite harmful consequences – even though drinking causes problems in various aspects of life and health, your loved one sadly continues to use alcohol.
If you think your loved one identifies with any of the above signs, they may suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
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What Is An Alcohol Use Disorder?
An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the medical diagnosis for a drinking problem. This disorder is a relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive alcohol use, a loss of control over drinking and a negative emotional state when not drinking.
It’s estimated 16 million people suffer from AUD in the United States. Much of the criteria needed to be diagnosed with an AUD include the signs mentioned in this article. If you’re still unsure, ask yourself the following questions about their drinking:
- Have they tried to stop drinking, but struggled to quit?
- Do they spend a lot of time drinking or suffering from the effects?
- Do they have a strong urge to drink?
- Does drinking, or being sick from drinking, cause problems at home, work, or school?
- Do they continue to drink when it gets them in trouble?
- Have they stopped their favorite activities in favor of drinking?
- Does their drinking increase their chances of getting hurt?
- Do they drink even though it damages their health?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, your loved one may need help. Whether their problem is mild or severe, all people can benefit from treatment.
Treatment For An Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorders are typically treated with:
- behavioral therapies
- mutual support groups
There are three government-approved medications used to treat alcohol addiction: acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone. These medications are useful for helping people stop or reduce their drinking. Medication is most effective when it’s combined with behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy aims to change a person’s thinking and attitude towards alcohol. Through a variety of counseling and therapies, a person can address the issues that lead to the problem and work to change their drinking behaviors in the future.
Mutual support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, provide peer support after a person has stopped drinking. When these groups are combined with professional treatment, they add an extra layer of support that can help with participation in therapy and reinforce positive behaviors.
Inpatient rehab is likely a good choice because it can provide all three options for treating an alcohol problem in the same place.
If your loved one shows any signs of drinking too much, contact us today for more information on treating alcohol abuse and addiction.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Fact Sheets: Alcohol Use and Your Health
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—Alcohol Use Disorder, A Word About Alcohol Poisoning, Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help
National Institute on Health—Drinking to Excess