Signs of alcohol abuse

Because of the common usage of alcohol in many social settings and its general ease of access, it is important to be aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can lead to a variety of health problems, and it can alsFinalo increase one’s risk of accidents and injuries. It is important to know how to recognize alcohol abuse so that you can get help if needed.

Here are some important questions that can help in recognizing alcohol abuse and its dangerous effects, as well as potential treatment options and solutions for yourself or loved ones that may be struggling with alcohol abuse.

1. What is alcohol abuse and how you can recognize it in yourself or others

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning alcohol consumption effectively relaxes and reduces the activity of the body’s central nervous system. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause slurred speech, reduced muscle coordination, memory loss, and significant changes in brain activity. There are many ways by which excessive intoxication can endanger yourself and those around you, largely due to the impact of alcohol on one’s judgment skills, behavior, and body coordination.

Alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder, as outlined by Mayo Clinic, can be recognized through several different trends or signs:

  • difficulty to stop drinking after starting; wanting to stop drinking but failing
  • inability to focus on work, school, etc. because of a desire to drink alcohol again
  • continuing to drink alcohol despite its impact on your relationships, work, and/or physical health
  • poor decision-making associated with alcohol use, such as drinking and driving
  • developing a dependency on alcohol/needing to be drunk to get through ordinary activities, or lack of motivation to do anything without drinking
  • developing a strong tolerance to alcohol, to where the consumer needs more and more alcohol to feel its effects
  • severe changes in mood and aggression, both while sober (as a result of withdrawals) or while drinking

1. The dangers of alcohol abuse, including health risks, financial problems, and relationships

Alcohol abuse can damage many aspects in the lives of both the consumer and their friends and family. As mentioned as one of the potential signs of alcohol abuse, one’s relationships can be damaged as a result of their excessive alcohol use. Because of their addiction to alcohol, one might prioritize drinking and neglect their relationships with those close to them, and they will choose to allocate their time and money to alcohol and miss out on the important events in the lives of their friends and family. Additionally, because of the behavioral impact of alcohol (aggression, mood swings, agitation), others may not want to spend time with the person if their personality is clearly affected by their alcohol dependency.

Alcohol abuse can also have numerous short-term and long-term physical and psychological health risks. Heavy drinking can lead to poor decision making, and intoxicated individuals are more susceptible to motor vehicle accidents, falls, and drowning. Another risk of excessive drinking is alcohol poisoning, which can cause liver failure, vomiting, and in some cases, unconsciousness and risk of death.

There is an extensive amount of potential long term health issues from consistent alcohol abuse, some of which can persist for the rest of the individual’s life. The CDC comprised a list of some of the potential risks:

  • high blood pressure, liver disease/liver failure, heart disease, and digestive problems
  • increased risk of numerous different cancer types: liver, colon, mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, and rectal
  • weakening of the immune system, which increases susceptibility to common illness and increases the likelihood of worse symptoms, as well
  • learning problems and memory problems, either as dementia or temporary memory loss
  • mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, and aggressive/violent tendencies

And though it may not be considered as significant of a concern in comparison to the health risks, the financial impact of alcohol abuse can be dangerous, as well. When an individual’s alcohol usage becomes severe enough, to the extent they are prioritizing spending money on alcohol and unable to finance their housing, food, and other essential items, that person should seek help. The damaging effect of alcohol abuse on close relationships and work or school performance, as mentioned, can also be directly tied to financial struggles. Alcohol abuse may lead to poor work performance or being fired if the individual is unable to work effectively without alcohol or thinking about drinking and may also cause a lack of motivation to return to work.

2. How to get help if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse

If you think you struggle with alcohol abuse, have problems drinking responsibly, or have other problems in your life that you believe have come as a result of alcohol abuse, you should talk with your doctor or health care provider. There are numerous different treatment and health care options available, depending on an individual’s situation; visiting mental health care or psychological health care professionals can be helpful, as well.

Denial is common and admittance is difficult for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse, and so the effort and intervention of close friends, relatives, and co-workers is sometimes needed to help someone acknowledge their problem. If you are considering talking to someone you know to address their alcohol abuse or a similar issue, it may be helpful to first talk with a professional with experience in alcohol treatment on how to approach that person.

Coming forward and acknowledging an alcohol abuse issue to friends and family can be challenging, so there are a few ways people can help themselves confidentially. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free, confidential helpline available 24/7 to provide treatment referrals and information for those struggling with alcohol abuse or other substance use disorders. Alcoholics Anonymous and similar support groups allow for participants to share as much as they feel comfortable, and the effectiveness of these therapy groups often depends on the commitment and honesty of the members.

3. Where to find more information on alcohol abuse and its effects

There are many helpful health institutions and organizations dedicated to providing information and treatment for alcohol abuse. Trusted health organizations including Mayo Clinic, CDC, SAMHSA, IARD, and the NIAAA all provide valuable resources regarding substance abuse and treatment on their websites.



Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, May 18). Alcohol use disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from