Determining if someone is alcohol dependent is not as simple as giving them a questionnaire, especially if you know nothing about alcoholism, clinically known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD,) and its symptoms. Some of the signs of alcoholism can also be signs of other disorders, and they can appear differently in each individual.
A common stereotype of someone struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder is someone who can’t function or keep a job and spends countless nights wandering from bar to bar. While this may be true for some, it is certainly not representative of everyone’s experience. Many people who struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder are functioning members of society. They can hold a steady job and maintain close relationships with family and friends, making it even harder to recognize the signs of alcoholism.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
It is important to note that a significant difference exists between having a drinking problem and struggling with alcoholism. Those who might have a drinking problem will likely have a hard time preventing alcohol from affecting their work and personal lives. For example, these individuals may come to work hungover or have strained relationships due to their chronic drinking habits or what they said/did while drinking. They may even experience signs of alcoholism, like night sweats. However, their substance use as a whole may not reflect an Alcohol Use Disorder.
However, those who struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder will display four distinct characteristics: tolerance, cravings, inability to stop drinking, and withdrawal. To understand these four characteristics and what to look for, continue reading below.
Signs of Alcoholism
1. High Tolerance
When you drink alcohol regularly, the brain starts to make some adaptations. It allows you to consume more alcohol without experiencing acute intoxication. The brain does this to prevent you from poisoning yourself, but you experience it as needing more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Those struggling with alcoholism can often drink large amounts of alcohol without feeling drunk. Eventually, they develop the urge to drink simply to feel normal. Here are some signs that someone might have built up a high tolerance to alcohol:
- You can drink a large amount of alcohol without feeling the ill effects.
- You start to develop a physical dependence.
- You need to have several drinks to feel relaxed or comfortable in a situation.
However, it is important to note that not everyone with a high tolerance struggles with alcoholism. Those who have been drinking responsibly for years will build up tolerance slowly over time. Alcohol tolerance also depends on several aspects, such as weight and genetics. A professional bodybuilder will have a higher tolerance than someone much slimmer, for example.
A craving is more than simply wishing you had a glass of wine to compliment a nice meal. Those who experience these psychological symptoms can seldom go for extended periods without consuming alcohol. They might need to drink as soon as they wake up and are more likely to hide alcohol in their home and, in some cases, even at work. Alcohol cravings can get so bad that having a drink is all a person can think about, disrupting their everyday lives. Some signs that alcohol craving has started to interfere with your day-to-day life include:
- You have tried to cut back on your drinking but couldn’t do so over a sustained period.
- You have stopped doing activities you used to enjoy in favor of drinking.
- You continue to drink excessively despite negative consequences, whether they be legal, personal, physical, or emotional.
3. Inability to Stop Drinking
When you struggle with alcohol addiction, you experience a complete inability to stop drinking, despite a deep desire to. Like cravings, an inability to stop is a sign of alcohol dependence. In an attempt to combat the addiction, many people will dispose of all of their alcohol or frequent places without it, but few can maintain abstinence.
When alcoholism is a severe case, individuals may struggle with quitting drinking because they fear withdrawal, or their body’s reaction to giving up alcohol leading the cycle to continue.
A few signs that your craving for alcohol has turned into an inability to stop drinking include:
- Discard all alcohol in your possession but buy it in the following hours.
- You depend on alcohol to get you through the day and/or other activities like work.
- You keep drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
After a night of drinking alcohol, many people might experience ill effects such as dizziness and nausea. This does not necessarily mean they are going through alcohol withdrawal. Someone with alcoholism will typically acquire additional symptoms, such as fever, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol isn’t in their system due to physical dependency, lasting 2-4 days. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling jumpy and uncomfortable when you aren’t drinking alcohol.
- You often wake up sweating or shaking.
- You have trouble sleeping when you don’t drink at night.
It is important to note that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. If you or someone you know is planning to quit drinking, consider reaching out to an Addiction Treatment Professional for an initial assessment or checking into a rehab center.
Alcoholism and Night Sweats
Night sweats often occur during alcohol withdrawal, but not exclusively. Night sweats can be a telling sign that you are suffering from alcoholism or alcohol abuse, even if you are not in alcohol withdrawal. However, night sweats may also occur after a single night or episode of drinking alcohol.
Night sweats occur due to how our bodies respond to toxins like alcohol. When drinking alcohol, after your liver breaks down the substance, your central nervous system becomes affected. This leads to the blood vessels in your body widening and an increased heart rate that makes one sweat more than normal.
Sweating is the obvious sign of alcohol-induced night sweats, but there are a few other symptoms that may also occur:
- High heart rate
- Clammy hands or skin
- Flushed face or neck
- Extreme thirst or signs of dehydration like dry mouth or a headache
- Struggling with sleep
If I Struggle with Night Sweats, Does that Mean I have an Alcohol Addiction?
These previously mentioned signs could mean you suffer from alcohol addiction, including night sweats. However, night sweats are not synonymous with alcoholism.
The amount you experience high-intensity sweating or night sweats may indicate alcoholism. If you find they are often happening and are experiencing an inability to stop or control night sweats, then it may be time to seek treatment for alcohol dependence.
Can Alcoholism Be Cured?
Alcoholism is a complex disease that takes hard work and dedication in order to recover. There is no cure for alcoholism; however, there are many things people can do to recover and maintain their sobriety. For example, some people enter treatment centers while others join support groups to gain the tools necessary to cope with and manage their alcoholism.
If you suffer from any of the previously mentioned symptoms, including alcohol-induced night sweats, alcohol cravings, withdrawal symptoms, or an inability to quit drinking alcohol, it may be time to consider certain treatment options.
Treatment Options for Alcoholism
There are many different treatment options available to those struggling with alcoholism. Depending on the severity of your alcohol addiction, one or more of the following options may help you manage your disease and remain in recovery.
Detoxification or Rehabilitation
If you experience any of the previous symptoms of alcoholism, especially alcohol withdrawal or an inability to stop drinking alcohol, the first step towards treatment may need to be a center for detoxification and/or rehabilitation.
Detoxification allows an individual to safely detox all the alcohol out of their body in a controlled environment. If someone has been abusing alcohol for long periods of time, without proper monitoring, detoxing can cause many issues, in worst cases, even death. Any signs of withdrawal, including shaking, sweating, nausea, and/or vomiting, may mean an individual should start their alcohol recovery journey with detoxification.
Rehabilitation is enrolling in a program that assists with becoming sober in a closely observed environment. Rehabilitation comes in many forms: different lengths (30 or 60 days being the most common), treatment settings (inpatient vs. outpatient), and methods of pedagogy. These centers aim to heal the patient inside and out, working with them to correct both their drinking issue and the root causes of an individual's addiction.
Regardless of severity, alcohol monitoring is beneficial for those trying to remain sober and in recovery from their alcohol addiction. Soberlink’s comprehensive system has helped countless individuals remain accountable during early recovery. The system not only supports the client’s recovery journey but also helps provide peace of mind to loved ones with real-time test results.
Combining wireless connectivity with facial recognition and tamper detection, this remote breathalyzer fosters accountability with its users and encourages sobriety with its scheduled tests and impressive easy-to-read, Advanced Reporting system.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free resource and offers worldwide accessibility. It uses a 12-step program to help its members achieve and maintain recovery through weekly meetings with others suffering from alcohol addiction.
Not only is AA a free resource, but it is also extremely accessible, with meetings happening daily both in person and online. Utilize their meeting finder online to find a meeting near you.