Alcohol Addiction Signs, Symptoms, & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of alcohol addiction is a critical first step in getting help for yourself or a loved one. Bradford Recovery Center, located in Millerton, Pennsylvania, is Northern Pennsylvania’s leading addiction treatment center, providing personalized programming for adults age 18 and over who are struggling with an addiction to alcohol.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Learn about alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction, clinically referred to as alcohol use disorder and commonly known as alcoholism, occurs when someone becomes physically dependent on alcohol. People who suffer from an alcohol addiction often feel like they need the substance to make it through the day. Someone who is addicted to alcohol typically does not have control over the amount of alcohol they consume, as well as the frequency with which they consume it.

Like most addictions, the key components of an alcohol use disorder are tolerance and withdrawal. Before becoming dependent upon alcohol, an individual first builds a tolerance to it, meaning that it takes a greater amount of the substance to achieve the desired physical and emotional effects. The second component of addiction is withdrawal, which occurs when the person stops consuming alcohol and feels physiological and psychological distress as a result.

The onset of symptoms of alcohol addiction is often the first indicator of your need for professional help, as symptoms can quickly become unmanageable. Left unaddressed, the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction can have devastating effects on a person’s health and well-being. Yet, by receiving effective professional care for an alcohol addiction, you can learn to control your addiction and achieve lasting recovery.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Different people will display different signs and symptoms of an alcohol addiction. These symptoms can be behavioral, physical, or mental. It’s important to be on the lookout for any signs that you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction. The following is a list of some of the more common signs and symptoms that accompany alcohol addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using alcohol to manage stress or cope with sadness
  • Needing alcohol to experience pleasure
  • Being unable to make it through the day without alcohol
  • Habitually “needing a drink” after a long or difficult day
  • Drinking alcohol to relieve physical or emotional pain
  • Having marked changes in appetite
  • Drinking by oneself or in secret
  • Drinking when it is dangerous to do so (e.g., drinking while on certain medications, drinking while driving, etc.)
  • Repeatedly getting drunk, vomiting from alcohol consumption, and/or losing consciousness after drinking
  • Frequently making impulsive decisions while drinking
  • Prioritizing alcohol over responsibilities and relationships
  • Trying but failing to stop drinking

Physical symptoms:

  • Red, swollen cheeks or nose
  • Physical instability (problems with balance or coordination)
  • Unintentional weight gain
  • High tolerance (needing more alcohol to feel certain effects)
  • Slurred words
  • Watery eyes

Mental symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion or feelings of disorientation
  • Hallucinations

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of alcohol addiction

If you or a loved one does not seek professional help for an alcohol addiction, you are more susceptible to certain short-term effects. The onset, development, and severity of short-term effects of alcohol addiction vary according to the individual. If you notice any of the following short-term effects of alcohol addiction, please seek professional care:

  • Poor performance at work
  • Job loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Violent and/or impulsive behavior
  • Failure to fulfill basic tasks or responsibilities
  • Strained relationships
  • Social withdrawal
  • Automobile accidents from driving while under the influence
  • Onset of co-occurring mental health disorders

Please note that just because these effects are considered short-term, it does not mean that they are temporary or inconsequential. Oftentimes the onset of any of the above short-term effects of alcohol addiction is a sign that one needs to receive professional help.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of alcohol addiction

If an alcohol addiction remains untreated, it can lead to long-term effects. Long-term effects are serious and can pose life-threatening risks. The following are some of the long-term effects of alcohol addiction:

  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Career failure
  • Arrests and/or incarceration from illegal activities while under the influence of alcohol
  • Worsening of symptoms of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Permanent loss of relationships
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

If you or a loved one has experienced any of the above long-term effects of alcohol addiction, please seek immediate professional care.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have alcohol addiction

Co-occurring disorder refers to symptoms of more than one disorder occurring at the same time. It is not uncommon for someone who struggles with an alcohol addiction to also struggle with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Common co-occurring mental health disorders for those suffering from an alcohol addiction include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

Withdrawing from alcohol and the risk of overdose

Effects of withdrawal: If you or a loved one becomes addicted to alcohol and tries to stop drinking, you may experience a variety of distressing symptoms, known as withdrawal. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include the following:

  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Twitches and tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

Effects of overdose: Overdosing on alcohol is extremely dangerous, and it can even prove fatal. Individuals who exhibit any of the following symptoms after consuming alcohol need immediate medical attention:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular breathing
  • Faint heartbeat
  • Blue tint on lips or fingertips
  • Cold skin
  • Seizure

If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms of alcohol overdose, please call 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately.

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