Signs of Alcohol Abuse
There are several signs of alcohol abuse. However, having no more than a drink or two a day for healthy men and one drink a day for healthy women (non-pregnant) are typically considered acceptable levels of alcohol consumption without incurring consequential health risks. Yet, as the frequency or amount of drinking increases, signs of alcohol abuse and dependence become evident. Physical and mental health progressively deteriorates, and individuals may jeopardize family and work responsibilities. Here are the many signs of alcohol abuse that may develop as a consequence.
Untreated alcoholics can expect to pass through the following three progressive alcoholism stages:
- The early, adaptive stage is characterized by Adaptation, Tolerance, and Improved Performance
- The middle, dependent stage is characterized by Physical Dependence, Craving, and Loss of Control
- The late, deteriorative stage is characterized by Malnutrition, Secondary Disease, and Death
The following signs of alcohol abuse characterize some of the classic alcoholic behaviors during the three alcoholism stages:
- A decrease in alcohol tolerance
- Aggressive and grandiose behavior
- An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one's self and to others
- Avoidance of friends and family
- Eye-openers upon awakening
- Frequent destructive or violent behavior
- Half-hearted attempts at seeking medical treatment
- Increasing tremors
- Loss of interests
- Loss of willpower
- Neglect of necessities such as food, shelter, and water
- Problems with the law (e.g, DWIs)
- Serious financial, work-related problems, and relationship problems
- The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking
- The loss of control has become a pattern
- The start of physical deterioration
- Unreasonable resentments
Early-Stage Signs of Alcohol Abuse:
The early stages of alcoholism begin when individuals start relying on alcohol to enhance their mood and escape from their problems. They begin thinking more and more about their next drink and from where it will come. In this early stage of the condition the alcoholic can show a tremendous tolerance for alcoholic beverages. He might consume quantities that render normal adults hopelessly inebriated, yet not lose his ability to function. Only when his blood alcohol level begins to lessen does the alcoholic show symptoms of impairment. Thus, even though he does not exhibit signs of delirium tremens, the alcoholic in the early stage will know that he feels better when he drinks, functions more efficiently, and thinks more clearly. He will increase the frequency and amount of his drinking and will cross over into the middle stage of alcoholism.
No definite signpost marks the border between the early stage signs of alcohol abuse and middle stage signs of alcohol abuse, and the change may take years. Eventually, however, the alcoholic drinks to affect a cure, not to attain euphoria or efficiency in functioning. Deterioration of the cells of the body's organs and systems by steady infusion of alcohol begins to exert itself. The alcoholic experiences withdrawal symptoms that bring on physical and psychological pain that persists until it is eased by taking in more alcohol. These withdrawal symptoms soon worsen and require increased amounts of alcohol to erase them. The alcoholic will experience severe headaches, trembling, chills, and nausea when his blood alcohol level begins to ebb.
Middle-Stage Signs of Alcohol Abuse:
The next stage is earmarked by an increasing need and desire for alcohol. As a result, individuals drink greater quantities and more often, including consumption earlier in the day and/or later into the evening. The alcoholic is now losing control over drinking, and the body is no longer able to process alcohol the same way it did in the early alcoholism stages. Relationships at home, work and socially break down, and there can be mounting financial and legal problems. At this point, the drinker may outwardly deny having a drinking problem; while it is apparent to loved ones, friends and co-workers.
End-Stage Signs of Alcohol Abuse:
As the addiction advances through the stages of alcoholism, the alcoholic becomes obsessed with drinking to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Hangovers, blackouts, stomach and other health-related problems are regular occurrences. Physical and mental health continues to degrade as the body’s organs become increasingly damaged and functionally impaired. Malnutrition also takes its toll. Large amounts of alcohol interfere with the digestive process and inhibit the passage of nutrients to the bloodstream.
Compounding the problem, a damaged liver from consumption prevents nutrients from being converted into a usable form that the body can assimilate. Physical health is quite poor by the time the alcoholic reaches the end alcoholism stages. If the alcoholic continues drinking and does not seek treatment, it could turn fatal. Whether it is from direct damage to the body's organs and systems, accidents and related injuries, or even suicide, death will likely be the final outcome of the end stages of alcoholism.
Understanding the warning signs of alcohol abuse can help prevent it from progressing through the three stages.