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Alcoholism is defined as the prolonged use of alcohol or an addiction to alcohol. An alcoholic is a person who does not know when or how to stop drinking on their own and cannot control when or how much they drink. These symptoms are often coupled with problems surrounding money, work or relationships.

Are you finding yourself concerned with a loved one’s relationship with alcohol? Are you worried that someone you care about has been drinking too often or drinking in excess? Alcohol Use Disorder is sometimes nefarious and difficult to differentiate from normal “partying”. Sometimes a person can be responsible and productive and still be struggling with substance abuse. This is not always the case, but there are some things you can look out for if you are worried about a person that you care about:

What are some red flags of alcoholism?

  1. Having more than 3 drinks per day, or 14 drinks per week
  2. Needing alcohol to help feel relaxed
  3. Drinking alone, before work, or in the morning
  4. Being unable to keep up with bills, work, or responsibilities at home due to drinking
  5. Losing friends due to drinking
  6. Forgetting what happened while intoxicated or blacking out
  7. Getting drunk without meaning to or after promising not to
  8. Lying about or denying drinking/hiding alcohol
  9. Legal issues caused by drinking, such as DWI or public intoxication

There can also be some more serious symptoms of physical dependence that can become more evident when a person tries to stop drinking on their own. These can include:

  1. Shaking/shaky hands
  2. Anxiety
  3. Vomiting
  4. Insomnia
  5. Confusion
  6. Headache/nausea
  7. Hallucinations
  8. Seizures

If someone you love is exhibiting some or all of these warning signs they may be at risk for alcohol use disorder. It is important to remember that not one of these things alone can mean a person is an alcoholic, and no one can diagnose this on their own or on behalf of someone else.

Risks associated with alcohol use

There are some serious risks involved with the excessive use or prolonged use of alcohol. These can include things like; liver disease, cirrhosis, high blood pressure, memory loss, dental issues and even brain damage. Excessive use of alcohol can also make someone more susceptible to issues surrounding impaired judgment such as car accidents, risky sexual behaviors or slips and falls. Loss of employment or deterioration of relationships are also possible outcomes of problem drinking.

What do I do if I think my loved one might have a problem with alcohol?

It is important to create a safe space for your loved one to feel like they can open up about their struggle with alcohol. Oftentimes, there is a lot of shame and remorse surrounding alcoholism and a person may deny their alcohol use before they are ready to admit they may need help. Try and convince your loved one to see a doctor or a professional. Being supportive, honest and compassionate may help them feel as though they don’t have to sort things out alone, and they can seek treatment in a nonjudgmental environment. They are not disenfranchised, and there are many resources available to them if they are ready.

If you need support and aren’t sure where to find help or resources when it comes to supporting someone who may be struggling, there are many Al-Anon meetings to be found in any area. It is also wise to contact a doctor or a professional in order to obtain advice or resources to help a loved one. There are also counseling services and support groups dedicated to those who are affected by the alcoholism of a loved one.  Alcoholism does not solely effect the person who suffers and it is important to seek support for yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed.

There is hope. If you feel as though someone you care about is suffering from alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder there are many doctors, therapists, facilities and 12-step fellowships available to him or her. More and more people are helping to raise awareness about this issue as well. The stigma is disappearing. The success rates for people recovering from alcoholism are rising and remember; no one needs to do this alone.