Early Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism doesn’t start out of the blue. It’s an insidious disease that sneaks up on people and affects as many as 14 million Americans, Wright State University reports. Many early indications point to the possibility that alcohol use is getting out of control. Heeding early warning signs that alcohol is becoming too important in your life or that of a loved one and taking action helps avoid the serious, life-threatening complications of alcoholism.

Changing Drinking Patterns

Most alcoholics start out drinking like everyone else. But because many, if not most, alcoholics process alcohol differently than the average person, they don’t experience or don’t recognize the early warning signs that their drinking is getting out of hand. One group of behaviors that signal early alcohol abuse involves a change in the way a person drinks. A person who abuses alcohol develops a preoccupation with drinking, rearranging his social and personal lives around the ability to drink. He may avoid social events that don’t involve drinking, and when he goes to events where alcohol is served, he has a few drinks before going out so he doesn’t appear to be drinking too much around other people. He may drink earlier in the day, hide alcohol, drink in secret and lie about his alcohol consumption. He may also try to control his alcohol intake by switching what he drinks, changing from hard liquor to wine, for example. Unlike a normal person, the person abusing alcohol can’t stop after one or two drinks.

Behavior Changes

Alcohol abuse causes behavior changes. One of the earliest behavioral changes in a person abusing alcohol appears in her tolerance. She can drink far more than most people. A person who once put her family first now puts alcohol before her family. She may miss work, forget to pick up children at school or stop doing family activities. She may have mood swings, becoming morose when drinking or exhibiting giddiness or exhibitionist behaviors when drinking.
A person abusing alcohol may shop at several stores so no one knows how much alcohol she buys, the University of Michigan Health System states, and worries about running out of alcohol. She may start using more perfume than normal, to cover the smell of alcohol or may switch to a drink with a less obvious odor or color, such as vodka. Blackouts, periods where she can’t remember what she did while drinking, often occur. She may privately wonder if she has an alcohol problem while denying it to others, according to Learn-About-Alcoholism.com

Relationship Issues

Relationships with other people often turn sour when a person begins abusing alcohol. When friends and family express concern, the drinker may become defensive or belligerent. He may blame others for his drinking, or rationalize that drinking isn’t a problem if he’s only hurting himself. He seems blind to or unconcerned about the damage done to his relationships with other people.

Physical Symptoms

The second most common sign of alcohol abuse, Help Guide states, involves physical symptoms of withdrawal. Tremors, morning “shakes,” sweating, nausea, headache, fatigue and anxiety can drive alcohol abusers to start drinking in the morning to decrease withdrawal symptoms.

About this Author

Sharon Perkins has worked as a registered nurse in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. Perkins started writing professionally for the Wiley “Dummies” series in 2001, and has co-authored seven books for the series, and acted as developmental editor for several more. Perkins received her registered nursing degree from Western Oklahoma State College in 1986.