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What Is Alcoholism?

Alcohol is a legal substance in the United States, and most countries around the world. It plays a role in many social events and is consumed recreationally by millions of Americans every day without significant harm.

However around 7 to 10% of individuals who consume alcohol, develop symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence. For these individuals, drinking alcohol can lead to unhealthy and unsafe choices and may have severe adverse reactions, physically, emotionally, legally, in their relationships, and careers.

Alcohol abuse is generally defined as having maladaptive and unhealthy drinking behavior. This can manifest in various ways. For some this looks like binge drinking, or drinking excessively in spurts. In others this may be drinking continuously every day. Many of the individuals that abuse alcohol are aware that they are harming themselves with their drinking; however, they cannot easily change their behavior.

If someone continues to abuse alcohol when they know that it is detrimental to their daily lives, and has a difficult time stopping on their own, they may end up meeting the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse


Requiring greater quantities of alcohol over time to achieve the same effect.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms like anxiety, depression, and DT’s when not drinking.

Unable To Control Use

Using alcohol for longer, or in greater amounts than intended.

Inability to Cut Down on Use

Often alcoholics have a regular desire to drink less.

Amount of Time Spent

Spending a significant amount of time and energy getting alcohol.

Loss of Recreation

Losing interest in social, career, and/or recreational activities.

Negative Effects

Continuing drinking while seeing clear physical or psychological issues as a result of drinking.

Primary Coping

Needing to drink in order to relax or be okay.

People who are alcohol abusers, may not necessarily be addicted to alcohol. Sometimes, they may not even drink on a daily basis. However, when they do drink, they will place themselves into dangerous situations and cause problems in their lives.
The signs of alcohol abuse differ from person to person. These symptoms will be influenced by a variety of factors, such as genetics, personal background, medical history, and more.

These are some basic signs that can indicate that someone may have a problem:

  • Decreased involvement in recreational activities.
  • Decreased interest in career or education.
  • Drinking in the morning, often being drunk for long periods of time, or drinking alone.
  • Changing what you drink in an effort to drink less or not get drunk.
  • Feeling guilty about drinking.
  • Making excuses for your drinking or hiding your drinking.
  • Not remembering your actions while drinking (blackouts).
  • Being worried that you won’t be able to drink somewhere.
  • General depression.
  • Decreased involvement with family or friends.
  • Preoccupation with drinking.
  • Restlessness.
  • Unable to control drinking.
  • Erratic or violent behavior.
Alcohol effects the brain and body in several different ways. The short term effects of alcohol consumption may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, slurred speech, and impaired judgement. The longer term effects can include blackouts, memory loss, liver disease, and thiamine deficiency. And finally, it may also play a part in increasing the risk of certain cancers, brain damage, and immune system obstruction.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease, and like other diseases, it’s course can be predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by genes. Because alcohol is a part of many people’s lives, and also plays a role in cultural and family traditions, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you or someone you know is drinking too much.

Medical standards say that if you are a woman who has more than 3 drinks at a time or more than 7 drinks in a week; or if you are a man who has more than 4 drinks at a time or more than 14 drinks a week – that you could be drinking too much.

If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, help is available. The best course of action is to first go to a medical detox facility to get off of the alcohol, and then find some sort of aftercare program, like a sober living, to transition back into daily life and learn how to live sober.


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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is avaliable!

Give us a call at 818-921-2424