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Signs of Alcoholism: When to Call It Quits

According to a recent Gallup poll, roughly 67% of adult Americans drink alcohol. But, how can you tell if you or a loved one belong to the 6% of Americans who have a drinking problem? What should you do if you're asking yourself, do I need rehab? With “gray area drinking” on the rise, there are some signs of alcoholism that make it clear it’s time to quit — or even get help through residential addiction treatment.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a chronic brain disease, known in medical circles as “alcohol use disorder.” The DSM-V, a book that doctors use to diagnose disease, defines alcohol use disorder as ““a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” 

Signs of Alcoholism

The DSM-V also includes a handy list of symptoms that can signify alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one exhibit two or more of these symptoms within one 12-month period, you might have a problem. Saying “yes” to 4 or 5 means it’s a moderate case, and 6 or more indicates a serious problem. How many apply in your case? These are the symptoms as defined in the DSM-V:

  1. Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended. 
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use. 
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects. 
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol. 
  5. Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol. 
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use. 
  8. Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous. 
  9. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol. 
  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol, or alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Other Signs of Alcoholism 

Other signs of alcoholism can be physical, behavioral, emotional, financial, or even vocational (having an effect on someone’s career). You might notice weight gain, or excessive sweating. Drastic mood swings or aggressive behavior when drinking could become the norm. Meanwhile, your loved one could be having trouble at work, issues with the law, or problems in their relationships. Overall, when any kind of problem starts to crop up in a heavy drinker’s life, the alcohol is likely to blame. 

Getting Help for Alcoholism 

Alcoholism is progressive, which means that it doesn’t just get better on its own. Much like other progressive diseases such as cancer or diabetes, it requires professional medical intervention. Medically managed detox followed by residential addiction treatment is the best way to stop alcoholism in its tracks. If you need help — for yourself or a loved one — call our caring team to find out what happens in rehab and what path to recovery might be right for you.