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How to Recognize the Signs of a Drinking Problem

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By April 27, 2019
signs of a drinking problem

How dangerous is alcohol?

Your initial answer might be “not very”. Especially when you consider the physical effects of other drugs, like heroin, meth, and cocaine. These drugs can stop your heart in a single dose.

The problem with that argument is that it doesn’t take into account the damage alcohol does on a wider scale. Alcohol is responsible for far more deaths, broken homes, and property damage. And it’s legal, making it the most dangerous drug of all.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can spot the signs of a drinking problem in a friend or loved one.

Recognize the Signs of a Drinking Problem

If you fear that a friend or loved one has a drinking problem, the first thing you can do is educate yourself about it. Here are a few of the common signs of alcohol addiction.

They’re Isolated

Alcoholics understand that their drinking habits aren’t like those of others. Because of this, they tend to shy away from social situations. Most often, those social situations are the ones where they can’t drink the way they’d like to.

They lose touch with the idea that they can have fun without alcohol. And they become more and more isolated over time.  

They’re the “Life of the Party”

Everyone has had a night they’d like to forget. Maybe you had one too many drinks and did something foolish at a bar. But it shouldn’t occur often.

If your friend is always the life of the party, that could be a warning sign of alcohol addiction. You’ll notice they drink more than anyone else. And they get drunk before anyone else does.

The life of the party usually can’t stop at just one drink. And they often pass out while the night is still young. Or talk about experiencing blackouts. 

They’re Participating in Dangerous Activities

Drunk driving is never okay. In fact, it’s one of the most dangerous things you can do. So if you know someone who does it regularly, that’s a big red flag.

But you may notice other strange behaviors too. They might pick fights while they’re drinking. Or insist on participating in dangerous dares. 

Drinking against doctor’s orders while on certain medications is a dangerous activity. And excessive drinking while swimming, or riding a bike, or even cooking can be a serious health risk.

They’re Having Relationship Problems

Neglecting responsibilities is a common behavior of addicts. If you notice that your friend is constantly talking about relationship problems, that’s one of the signs.

These problems are often compounded because they may drink to feel better about the situation. They might pick fights with you or other loved ones. And they may become verbally or physically abusive.

They’re Having Problems with the Law

Legal troubles are the most obvious sign of an addiction. It’s one thing to get busted with booze as a minor. But it’s another thing to have serious criminal offenses on their record because of drinking.

Getting arrested for domestic violence while they’re drunk is a sign of a problem. Other common legal problems for addicts include DWI, breaking and entering, and theft. Even public intoxication, although not as serious as some of the legal issues we’ve discussed, is something to keep an eye on.

They’re Lying

Once addiction gets ahold of someone, it tends to strip them of their moral compass. Someone with a drinking problem is more likely to lie, cheat, and steal to get what they need.

You might catch them lying about when they drink, how much they drink, and who they drink with. They may lie about the fact that they won’t attend an event because they plan to drink instead. And you may find that they’re lying about how much money they spend on drinking.

Their Crowd Drinks Too Much

You can tell a lot about people by observing their friends. People who drink heavily tend to stick together. 

It’s common to see alcoholics ditch their former set of friends for others who drink as they do. If you notice that your family member has started hanging out with the “wrong crowd” it might be time to seek help.

They’re an “Angry Drunk”

Emotions vary from one alcoholic to the next. The “angry drunk” is a common sight amongst alcoholics.

But any major change in emotional behavior is something to look out for. This could be when they’re drunk or when they’re hungover. 

You might notice that they’re quicker to snap at someone. They may have less patience with their kids or their spouse. Or they may cry more often than they used to. 

They’re Trying to Quit

Anybody who makes the effort to quit has a problem. Simple as that. They recognize it or they wouldn’t try to quit in the first place. 

The problem is that nobody can quit on their own. And most alcoholics who do try it won’t last long. 

If you hear your loved one talking about wanting to quit, that’s a sign that there’s a problem. And that they may be ready to get the help they need.

What Can You Do?

The best thing to do is to educate yourself. Talk to a family counselor about your options. When you’re educated about the disease, you’re better able to help without making the situation worse.

Consider joining an organization like Al-Anon which helps friends and family of alcoholics cope. Learn to talk openly about alcohol without lecturing your loved one.

And most importantly, don’t drink with your loved one. Don’t buy them alcohol or help them out by lying for them. And don’t argue with them while they’re drunk. 

Get Them the Help They Need

Alcoholics will not get the help they need until they’re ready. So keep that in mind when you’re speaking to them about help. You can’t force them to do anything.

But you can take care of yourself. Get the help you need so that you can be there to support your loved one in their time of need.

At Discovery Institute, we can help you and your loved one overcome alcohol addiction. If you recognize the signs of a drinking problem, call us now. We offer 24/7 help with 100% confidentiality. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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