Physical Signs and Other Symptoms of Alcoholism & Alcohol Abuse

Because alcoholism rewires the brain and affects a person’s mood, thinking and behaviors, it’s classified as a mental illness. Thus, many of the hallmark signs of alcoholism involve changes in behavior. As people move from mild to severe AUD, their bodies and brains will experience significant effects of alcohol abuse that may show up quickly, or gradually appear as a more long-term effect.

Alcoholism or drug use is often connected to other mental or emotional problems, and many treatments have similar treatment components. Treatments for a substance use disorder and other mental health disorders are commonly referred to as co-occurring treatments as they treat both problems simultaneously. These astronomical figures have led many health and addiction specialists toward creating programs that address mental health concerns and alcoholism concurrently. Being aware of the physical signs of alcoholism and the symptoms of mental health disorders may help families take preventative measures and intervene sooner. Many substance use and alcohol problems are the result of mental health disorders and self-medicating.

Risks of Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that more than 51 percent of Americans aged 12 or older ( 139.8 million people) had consumed alcohol in the last month during their 2018 survey. Twenty-four percent (67.1 million people) binge drank in the past month, meaning that they consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion. A little over 6 percent (16.6 million people) drank heavily or binge drank on at least five occasions in the last month. By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks. Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can also lead to dependence, which means your body and brain have grown used to alcohol’s effects.

alcoholism physical symptoms

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addressing alcoholism early on leads to better outcomes and can minimize the coinciding health effects. They also state alcohol treatments work better when tailored to individual needs. AspenRidge offers trained professionals who understand the current dimensional diagnostic standards and address physical signs of alcoholism and underlying mental health concerns.

Potential Predictors of Alcohol Use Disorders

Early withdrawal symptoms include headaches, anxiety, nausea, irritability and shaking. If you think a family member or loved one might be showing signs, signals or symptoms of alcoholism, know that it won’t «go away» on its own. Their brain is changing—and without help, there can be serious long-term consequences. At the end of the day, the signs and symptoms of alcoholism may differ depending on the
stage of alcoholism and the
type of alcoholic. But a good indicator of an alcohol addiction is when something is “out of whack” in your life,
according to Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

However, just one night of excessive drinking or prolonged exposure to the effects of alcohol abuse can lead to serious health problems. Alcohol abuse has many psychological and physiological effects which can vary widely based on a person’s chemical makeup and level of consumption. The stigma surrounding alcoholism and other substance addictions can also make it difficult for a loved one to open up. Looking out for common signs and symptoms related to alcohol abuse can help loved ones better recognize and support those in need. Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The physical signs of alcoholism can be subtle or obvious, depending on the severity of the addiction.

What are the stages of alcoholism?

While it’s legal and common to drink alcohol, addiction to alcohol may be among the deadliest drug addictions there is. Its potential for abuse, withdrawal, and long-term health consequences means you have every reason to present your concerns to your loved one and offer to get them help. It’s usually easy to recognize that someone has been drinking, if they have a severe alcohol dependence, they’re likely to need significantly higher amounts of alcohol before showing the telltale signs of alcoholism. People with long-standing alcoholism may be able to have several drinks before appearing intoxicated. When it comes to mental illness and alcoholism, there is often a chicken-egg dilemma at play — it can be hard to tell which came first.

When alcoholism is severe, an individual may develop a physical dependence on the drug. That said, regular heavy drinking is an important warning sign for alcohol addiction, according to addiction experts at the
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Heavy drinking in conjunction with other behaviors can also signal
a problem.


Additionally, research has shown that alcohol may alter the composition of helpful microorganisms in your gut. These organisms play a crucial role in your gut and immune system function. While alcohol sends you into dreamland quicker, there’s a good chance that having too much will lead to a night of tossing and turning once its sedative effects wear off. Heavy drinking can lead to easy bruising and bleeding, and not just because you’re more prone to falling and hitting table corners when drunk. For some of us, half a dozen drinks during a night out aren’t yet enough to faze us.

alcoholism physical symptoms

By itself, the CAGE questionnaire is not an adequate screening for alcohol problems.The CAGE questionnaire is less reliable when given after asking questions on frequency. If the patient answers questions on the CAGE questionnaire or AUDIT affirmatively, following up with additional questions about circumstances and reasons is important. Additional useful questions are found below (see Additional questions). These rules call for mandatory alcohol testing, using EBTs, of applicants for identified positions and in cases of reasonable suspicion of alcohol use, and for random testing of employees in these positions. Any agencies conducting this type of testing will have a specific program spelled out in agency policy. After the employee’s return to duty, there will be some type of follow-up care such as a 12-Step program or other group meetings, therapy, EAP sessions, or any combination of the foregoing (please see the Appendix ).

End-Stage Alcoholism: Signs, Symptoms, Management

Others, like loss of consciousness or slurred speech, may develop after a few drinks. Past guidance around alcohol use generally suggests a daily drink poses little risk of negative health effects — and might even offer a few health benefits. During end-stage alcoholism, a person may struggle with involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus) or weakness and paralysis of the eye muscles due to thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency.

  • Many individuals get clean and later relapse believing they can manage drinking in moderation.
  • The employee may also have noticeable financial problems evidenced by borrowing money from other employees or receiving phone calls at work from creditors or collection companies.
  • Yet a family history of alcohol problems doesn’t mean that children will automatically grow up to have the same problems.
  • If so, it may be time to have a conversation about treatment options.

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