Alcohol consumption is woven into the fabric of our social lives. We toast to the New Year with a glass of champagne. We sip frosty beers while watching Monday Night Football. And at the end of a stressful work week, we head to happy hour to blow off some steam.
But while there are health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption, heavy drinking can carry significant consequences. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes annually. Overconsumption of alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers, causes life-threatening liver diseases, and contributes to a significant number of injuries, assaults, and car crashes. Globally, alcohol abuse is the “fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability.”
So how can you tell whether you’re a social drinker with a low risk of alcohol dependency, or if you’ve got a potentially bigger drinking problem on your hands? Here are 10 warning signs of alcohol addiction and alcoholism.
1. You often drink more alcohol than you intended
At the beginning of the night, you tell yourself you’ll only have one glass of wine – two, tops. But as the evening wears on, you keep refilling your glass, again and again, until you’ve lost track of how much you’ve consumed. And before you know it, the bottle of wine is empty.
2. It takes a lot more alcohol to get you drunk than it used to
At one time, you’d feel intoxicated after only a couple of beers. Now, you can polish off a whole six-pack and still not catch that same level of buzz.
3. You lie about how much alcohol you drink
Friends and family have expressed concern over your alcohol consumption, so you feel the need to cover it up. So you’ve started drinking in private, and hiding alcohol where no one can find it.
4. Drinking alcohol has led you to some scary situations
You’ve made bad choices while drunk, like getting behind the wheel or walking alone in an unsafe area. Maybe you’ve been assaulted, robbed, or otherwise taken advantage of while intoxicated. Or maybe you’ve woken up in the hospital, and you don’t know how you got there.
5. You can’t remember what happens when you’re drunk
Blacking out has happened to you on more than one occasion, but it hasn’t curbed your drinking habits at all.
6. Past attempts to stop drinking alcohol were unsuccessful
You’ve tried to cut out alcohol before, but it was no use. You keep coming back to it, over and over, and find the cravings too hard to ignore.
7. You spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol
When you don’t have a drink in your hand, you wish you did, and it’s hard for you to concentrate without one.
8. People at work are beginning to notice
You’ve been falling behind on your deadlines or showing up late to the office. If you’re in school, your grades are starting to slip. Maybe your boss or instructor has even inquired about your alcohol consumption.
9. Drinking alcohol wins out over any other activity
You make plans around your ability to drink. If someone invites you to an event without alcohol, you decline. And you find yourself frequently saying no to invitations.
10. You feel physically ill when you’re not drinking alcohol
Sweating, shaking, sleeplessness, seizures: these are all symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal is a serious sign of alcohol addiction, and should be treated by a medical professional.
If any of these symptoms look familiar to you, you may be suffering from an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and it’s important that you seek help immediately. Confide in a loved one, speak to a medical professional, or contact a treatment center to get on the road to recovery. Help is only a phone call away.