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11 Warning Signs of Developing Alcoholism

It can be difficult to know when you or someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism. Alcohol abuse can often be hidden or disguised among drinkers who believe that because they only drink socially, their use is not problematic.

However, when you lose control of your drinking, compulsively consume alcohol despite negative consequences, and/or experience cravings when not drinking, you may have developed an addiction to alcohol.

Read more about alcoholism warning signs to look for in your own life or in that of a friend or family member.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a treatable, chronic disease that is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria to merit a diagnosis. 

These criteria can also be used as warning signs of problematic alcohol abuse. To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet at least 2 of the below criteria within the same 12-month period:1

drinking warning signs

  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
  • Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
  • Having a tolerance (i.e., needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve desired effect).
  • Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.
  • Using alcohol in higher amounts or for a longer time than originally intended.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  • Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
  • Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.

In many cases, people first experiences with drinking and alcohol intoxication take place in their mid-teen years.2 And while alcohol use disorders definitely develop in some people earlier in life, a majority of those who go on to develop alcohol-related disorders do so by their late 30s.2 

Ways to Get Sober

You can take several steps to help rehabilitate yourself or someone you care about from alcoholism, including:

  • Entering a medical detox facility to help manage potentially severe acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome when stopping drinking.
  • Beginning an alcohol treatment/rehabilitation program.
  • Participating in aftercare support, such as mutual support groups, once you’ve completed treatment.

Medical detox is often the starting place when choosing to get sober and live a life of recovery from alcoholism. This process involves medical supervision and medication to help individuals who’ve developed a severe dependence on alcohol to stay as safe and comfortable as possible during detox.3

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous when detoxing on your own, but proper medical management can address serious conditions that may occur or help ease any discomfort.3 Once you’ve successfully completed detox, a rehabilitation program may be encouraged to begin work toward lifetime sobriety and prevent relapse.

Depending on the severity of the AUD, you may be treated in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Regardless of setting, rehab typically involves a mix of private and group counseling sessions, behavioral therapies, medications, and mutual support groups.4

Getting Help For Alcoholism

If you suspect that you or someone you care about has an AUD, it may be time to seek professional help. is a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers (AAC), a nationwide provider of addiction treatment facilities.

As a leading provider of addiction treatment services, we offer a combination of proven therapies and services to meet your individual needs. Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to discuss your treatment options today and tell you more about what to expect. Call our Alcohol Detox Hotline at  all calls are 100% confidential.

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