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The Transition House, Inc.

What are the signs of alcohol use disorder?


Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • Bob’s daughter was the lead in her first-grade play, but he didn’t make it to opening night because he was drinking at a bar with his friends.
  • Nancy and her husband have been fighting a lot recently because Nancy is frequently intoxicated whenever they are together.
  • Frank went from drinking a glass of wine every few days to cope with stress at work to drinking a bottle of wine every night. What started out as de-stressing after a hard day has turned into something more.

Bob, Nancy and Frank may have vastly different lives, but they have one thing in common – signs of alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder.

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Is it alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse occurs when a person’s use of alcohol negatively impacts their daily life. Some examples include:

  • Neglecting their responsibilities at work or school because they are drinking
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Finding themselves in legal trouble because of drinking
  • Becoming violent while drunk
  • Suffering from strained relationships because of their behavior while drinking

Treatment for alcohol abuse can sometimes occur in an outpatient setting like a counseling center or doctor’s office.

Alcohol dependence is similar to alcohol abuse but is characterized by a physical dependence on alcohol. Physical dependence on alcohol is when a person:

  • Has built up a tolerance to alcohol and needs to drink more to feel intoxicated
  • Experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking
  • Drinks compulsively even after they intend to or make promises to quit

Alcohol dependence requires medical detox, which often takes place in an inpatient or residential setting.

Many people who experience alcohol dependence struggled with alcohol abuse before becoming dependent. Alternatively, someone who abuses alcohol might do so periodically and may never progress to dependence. Addiction and recovery are not linear and alcohol dependence can affect anyone, regardless of how much or how often they drink.

What are the signs of alcohol use disorder?

There are a few different ways to spot the warning signs of alcohol abuse.

Short term signs:

  • Slurring of speech 
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Changes in emotion
  • Frequent loss of consciousness 

Long-term signs:

  • Depression 
  • Liver damage or cirrhosis 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Memory loss

Like all forms of addiction, alcohol addiction is a disease that requires treatment. If you recognize any of these symptoms or behaviors in yourself or a loved one, we can help you better understand what you’re experiencing and help you find the treatment that’s right for you.

Contact one of our counseling centers. We can help you choose recovery.

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