According to the most recent studies, one person in six has an alcohol problem or alcohol addiction. This means that millions of American families are affected by alcoholism and alcohol dependence each and every day. Many do not receive the alcohol addiction treatment they need to live a sober life. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol dependence is important for family, friends, co-workers, religious leaders, teachers, and medical professionals.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse means that the person may not be physically dependent on alcohol, but it is causing problems in their life. Alcohol abuse is one of the early warning signs that a person is heading toward alcohol dependence and alcoholism.



What is the difference between alcohol dependence and alcoholism?

Great Question! Some signs and symptoms of alcohol and dependence are the same:

  • A person has a strong urge to drink
  • It may be hard or impossible for a person to stop drinking once they begin
  • More and more alcohol is needed to reach the same high or effect that the person drinking wants (this is called a tolerance to alcohol)
  • When a person stops drinking intentionally, or because they can’t obtain any alcohol, they begin to have uncomfortable physical symptoms (withdrawal)
  • Risky behaviors while drinking, such as unsafe sex and driving while drinking


What does withdrawal from alcohol look like?

Symptoms of withdrawal can be mild to life-threatening. This is a physical response from the body’s need to have alcohol. Both someone with alcohol dependence, and someone with alcoholism, can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Some symptoms include:

  • Racing heart
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Seizures (convulsions)

When a person uses alcohol frequently, their body (and brain) gets used to having it in the body. This is a physical dependence.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

  • Drinking alone
  • Hiding that one is drinking
  • Increasing legal, work, and relationship problems
  • Financial troubles increase
  • Keeping alcohol in the car or work desk
  • Gulping drinks quickly or always ordering doubles
  • Becoming anxious or irritable if feeling that alcohol may not be available or something will interfere with getting a drink
  • Starting the day with a drink in order to feel “normal”
  • No longer enjoying activities that were once important
  • Having blackouts when drinking, and not remembering promises made or events

When someone has been an alcoholic for a long period, they may already have some permanent physical and mental damage. However, this does not mean they are without hope.

Alcohol addiction treatment programs should be started as early as possible. Like with many diseases, prevention is best, but this does not always happen. This is a strong reason for action when signs and symptoms of alcoholism, or dependence, are noticed by family or friends. Getting someone to admit that they have an alcohol problem can be a difficult task.