Alcohol Symptoms and Warning Signs

Modified: 17th Jul 2019

Last updated on July 17th, 2019 at 09:48 am

Do you suspect that someone you love may be abusing alcohol? 

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem that can lead to fatal consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur every year in the United States. 

Early detection and treatment are essential for overcoming alcoholism. Understanding the symptoms and warning signs of alcohol abuse can help you to recognize the early stages of alcoholism. 

Read on to learn about alcohol symptoms and warning signs that may indicate a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction.

Symptoms of Addiction to Alcohol

The following are symptoms associated with alcohol abuse:

  • Temporary blackouts or memory loss while under the influence
  • Experiencing headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other undesirable symptoms when one stops drinking
  • Irritability, depression, mood swings, or recurrent arguments and fights with friends and family members
  • Flushed skin and broken capillaries on the face
  • Trembling hands
  • Husky voice
  • Chronic diarrhea or black tar-like stools
  • Vomiting blood
  • Drinking alone, in the morning, or hiding alcohol use from others
  • Continuing use of alcohol to relax, cheer up, sleep, or to feel “normal”

If your loved reports that they’re experiencing symptoms listed above, they may be reaching out to you for help. 

Warning Signs a Loved One May Be Abusing Alcohol

Warning signs are consequences of alcohol abuse that may be more recognizable to others than its symptoms. Warning signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Refusing to stop drinking despite negative consequences that impact health, relationships, or job
  • A family history that reveals others who suffered from alcoholism or addiction problems
  • Neglecting friends and family or avoiding social interaction, so they can drink instead
  • Experiencing withdrawal from alcohol (sweating, trembling, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, depression, or anxiety)
  • Loss of control of one’s ability to stop or limit alcohol intake
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol
  • Engaging in new, risk-taking behaviors
  • Changes in appearance — including neglecting hygiene, wearing dirty clothes, etc.
  • Behaving in a suspicious or secretive manner, like hiding their alcohol use or unexplained injuries
  • Sudden changes that show problems in relationships
  • Physical signs that may include bloodshot eyes, smelling like alcohol, or a face that appears flushed

If you suspect a loved is abusing alcohol, look for the above signs. If you notice they’re exhibiting any of the warning signs above, it might be time to reach out to them.

Is My Child Using Alcohol?

Research shows that underage drinking can affect brain development. It may impact how your child learns and processes information. It can also indicate a greater likelihood of developing a dependency on alcohol later in life.

If you’re concerned that your child may be using alcohol, it’s essential that you intervene.

Alcohol use in teens can have a negative impact on academic performance, relationships, and health. Not only that, but underage drinking may also result in legal consequences for both the child and their parents.

Children who use alcohol share many of the same warning signs and symptoms as adults. But, there are other red flags to help you identify alcohol use in an underage drinker.

You may notice dramatic changes in your child’s style, friend groups, grades, or attitude if they’re using alcohol. They might begin to display inconsiderate or unusual behavior, such as coming in late at night or avoiding direct contact with you or other family members. They may have sudden emotional outbursts or severe mood swings.

You might recognize changes in your child’s self-esteem, personality, sleep patterns, interests, or in other areas. There may be unexplainable bruises, injuries or property damage that they dismiss.

Teens may become less open about where and what they’re doing. They may also try to hide who they’re spending time with when they’re drinking.

If you believe your child is abusing alcohol, it’s important that you seek immediate professional help to address their drinking.

Is My Parent Using Alcohol?

It can also be the parent who is abusing alcohol. If this is the case, there are some tell-tale signs that can help you recognize alcohol abuse.

The following may be signs that your parent is abusing alcohol:

  • They neglect parental duties and responsibilities
  • Their behavior changes drastically, either when they’re drinking or when they’re not drinking
  • They begin to make choices that are uncharacteristic of them
  • Your parent may develop new friends whom they spend considerable amounts of time who also drink alcohol
  • They may lose their job or mismanage their finances
  • You might notice that they’ve become withdrawn, isolated, or sleep for extended periods

Sometimes, parents may put their children in danger or in risky situations. Alcohol abuse can interfere with one’s ability to make rational decisions. If you feel that you’re in danger, it’s important that you tell another adult who can help.

Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

If you’re worried that a loved one is abusing alcohol, there are steps you can take to get them the help they need. An intervention is a strategy that’s often discussed and is an effective way to help others seek treatment.

You could try talking to your loved one about their alcohol use. But, if you feel they wouldn’t respond positively to you, it may be best to seek professional guidance before approaching them.

In most cases, individuals who show signs of alcoholism will resond positively to some form of treatment. Treatment options for alcoholism include behavioral treatments, medications, and mutual-support groups.

Where to Go from Here

The first step in seeking treatment for a loved one is often the most difficult. But, the consequences of alcoholism can be far worse.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s alcohol use, it may be a good idea to start with a primary care physician. They might be able to assess the situation and advise you on the best course of action to take.

You can also perform your own research to determine the best way to deal with your loved one’s drinking problem. Start here to learn more about treatment possibilities for alcoholism. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.