5 Signs You Have a Drinking Problem

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Alcohol is part of American culture. Most adults in the United States drink alcohol as part of their lifestyle. While many people have a healthy relationship with alcohol, millions struggle with alcohol abuse and other types of problematic drinking. Without early intervention and treatment, many people will go on to develop an addiction to alcohol.

Living with untreated alcoholism puts you at increased risk of severe consequences for your health, safety, and relationships. Recognizing the signs of a drinking problem and getting alcoholism treatment as early as possible could be a life-saving decision. The sooner you seek the comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment you need, the better your chance of recovering and avoiding increasingly serious consequences of substance abuse.

Five Signs of a Drinking Problem

Recognizing the signs of a drinking problem can be the first step toward getting the help you need. While the symptoms of alcohol abuse may vary from person to person, there are five primary signs that someone has a drinking problem.

1. You Have Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system (CNS). When a person drinks heavily for a prolonged period, their body adjusts to the presence of alcohol. When they stop, they may experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Tremors
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Poor appetite

Some people experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including life-threatening dehydration and seizures. If someone experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they stop or reduce their alcohol intake, they likely require alcohol abuse treatment.

2. You Need More Alcohol to Get the Same Effects

As the body adapts to the presence of alcohol, a person may need to drink more to get the same desired effects over time. Someone who once had a glass of wine or two after dinner for weeks or months may come to require an entire bottle of wine to feel relaxed. This is called “tolerance” and is one of the primary signs of alcohol abuse and addiction.

3. You Engage in Risky Behavior While Drinking

Because alcohol impairs a person’s judgment, people often engage in behaviors while drinking that they would avoid if they were sober. People may participate in illegal conduct, engage in risky sexual behavior, get into fights, or drive while intoxicated. These activities can be life-threatening to the intoxicated person and others around them.

People who drink heavily can experience social, financial, and legal consequences that follow them for the rest of their lives. In some cases, they may cause irreversible harm to others. If someone takes more risks or does things that are out of character when drinking, it is a clear sign that they need substance abuse treatment.

4. You Can’t Keep Up With Your Responsibilities

When people have a problematic relationship with or addiction to alcohol, other things take a back seat. Over time, people may regularly be too intoxicated or hungover to take care of their responsibilities at work, school, or home. This can include essential, everyday activities like taking care of their hygiene, cleaning, shopping, or eating regularly.

Because of repeated absences or low productivity, people who drink heavily may be fired from their job or lose opportunities to advance their careers. People may notice changes in their appearance or ability to stay on top of everyday tasks like paying bills or cleaning up. Suddenly falling behind in your responsibilities may signify a drinking problem that would benefit from treatment.

5. Losing Interest in Other Things

Like other kinds of addiction, alcoholism and problematic drinking take people’s focus away from other aspects of their lives. In time, they may lose interest in maintaining friendships and other close relationships. They may stop caring about work or stop spending their time, energy, and resources on their hobbies and interests. Getting alcohol and drinking becomes the center of their lives. This singular focus is a clear sign of a drinking problem.

What to Do if You Have Signs of a Drinking Problem

If you or someone you love has signs of a drinking problem, you must seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid the severe consequence of alcohol addiction. Treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction happens in stages.

First, people go through a medically supervised detox program. During detox, medical and support staff monitor and treat people for withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, people attend a treatment program. Treatment is offered in many settings and levels of care. People may participate in outpatient programs, inpatient or residential treatment, intensive outpatient programs, or partial hospitalization programs. During treatment, people participate in a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication management
  • Mental health treatment
  • Education
  • Holistic therapies such as art, yoga, music, nutrition counseling, acupuncture, outdoor recreation, and mindfulness practice

After completing treatment, people must develop an aftercare plan to help them stay engaged in recovery for life. Addiction is never cured. Instead, people must remain active in recovery for the rest of their lives.

Find Help for a Drinking Problem Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, know that help is available. Contact the New Jersey Addiction Interventions staff today to find an alcohol rehab near you.

Medically Reviewed: July 20, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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