How to Recognize a Drinking Problem
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Updated: May 19, 2022

How to Recognize a Drinking Problem

It is often easy to recognize when someone has been drinking. They may exhibit slurred speech, loose inhibitions, clumsiness, and may have the smell of alcohol on their breath. Recognizing a drinking problem or alcohol use disorder(AUD) is more challenging.

Individuals with an AUD may not realize they have a problem or have become so good at hiding apparent signs of addiction that the people around them do not notice. They may even find themselves in denial after recognizing the realities of their excessive drinking.

Many people who have a drinking problem are blind to the disease growing inside them. Bringing awareness to the warning signs of AUD is essential in helping others heal. For a person who feels constantly criticized for drinking too much or who begins to question if they have a drinking problem, knowing the warning signs of AUD can help determine if treatment should be sought.

Warning Signs of a Drinking Problem

Many warning signs exist to help determine potential drinking problems. Minor alcohol abuse can go unnoticed but can quickly transform into extreme amounts of alcohol consumption that become life-threatening. The early warning signs for AUD should not be ignored; the sooner treatment is provided, the better.

Drinking Extreme Amounts of Alcohol

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol resulting in a blood alcohol concentration reaching 0.08% or higher, which equals approximately five drinks a day. Correspondingly, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than four drinks a day, or more than fourteen drinks per week, for men.

For women, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks per week. Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use significantly increase a person’s risk of AUD.

Countless individuals who misuse alcohol often drink significantly more than this amount daily. It’s not unusual for people with AUD to have a dozen drinks or more in one day. Still, problematic drinking starts slowly, and many people discover that they require increased quantities of alcohol to feel the initial effects of its use.

Losing Control

Many individuals who struggle with alcohol misuse will promise themselves or someone they love that they will reduce their amount of drinking. If the person cannot keep that promise and continues to drink too much and lose control, they should seek treatment.

Losing control could refer to a person losing the ability to control how long the drinking session lasts, how frequently they drink, how much alcohol they consume at one time, the inability to stop drinking once it begins, or drinking at inappropriate times.

Putting Priority on Alcohol Activities

Individuals who misuse alcohol prioritize the drink over what’s important. They are likely to neglect what matters in their lives, such as family, job responsibilities, hobbies, or financial obligations. Furthermore, a person with AUD often makes excuses for alcohol misuse and blames the drinking on stressful situations.

Continuously Drinking Despite the Destruction

Getting arrested for driving under the influence, ruining a marriage, or losing meaningful relationships are only a few of the catastrophic consequences for a person struggling with AUD. They can’t seem to pick up the pieces of rubble left in their life from the destruction drinking has caused.

People with AUD seem unable to stop drinking and rebuilding their life. It may be challenging to face the mistakes and issues caused by drinking, but healing is always possible in the present moment.

Building a Tolerance to Alcohol and Showing Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who misuse alcohol begin to show signs of increased tolerance to alcohol, requiring more alcohol to provide the feeling they experienced in the beginning. They will also start to have withdrawal symptoms when they go without alcohol for extended periods.

People with AUD often use alcohol to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. AUD is a vicious cycle that requires treatment before change can occur.

If alcohol begins to negatively disrupt a person’s life and cause harm, it is considered AUD. Distinguishing these warning signs of having a drinking problem can help a person get the proper treatment that begins their recovery process. If left alone and untreated, alcohol misuse can quickly spiral out of control.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

It can feel overwhelming when searching for help for an alcohol use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to help find addiction treatment services based on geographical area. In addition, helpful information can be found about treatment facilities that provide specialty care by using SAMHSA’s Substance Use Treatment Locator.

Your sobriety is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make in your life, and there should be no shame in seeking help for those suffering from alcohol use disorder. If you or a loved one are ready to begin the recovery process, we want to help. In San Diego, California, the Present Moments Recovery center offers a home-like environment to help build a foundation for a brighter future. We have a compassionate team of professionals who understand that no two paths to recovery are identical, so we provide an individualized treatment plan for each client. Our family-run treatment center offers a continuum of care program to ensure a successful recovery. At Present Moments Recovery, you can heal in a home instead of a facility. We believe recovery can only happen in the present moment. Call us today and learn about our services at (619) 363-4767.


If you or a loved one is looking for an effective drug rehab in San Diego, call 619-363-4767. One of our caring members is ready to answer all of your questions.

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