Two Signs You May be Addicted to Alcohol

man contemplating his alcohol addiction

Alcoholism can be a tricky problem to diagnose. That’s partly because it can take a while for a person to become addicted—for some people, it can take years for them to become full-blown alcoholics. So alcoholism may creep up on one so very gradually, it’s unnoticeable.

It can be deceptive, too. Some people who drink almost every day may comment that because they can go a day or even two without drinking, they are not alcoholics.

So how can one judge whether or not alcoholism exists?

What really counts when you are judging alcoholism are these two important factors:

1. Can the person control his (or her) drinking? Can he make a decision to reduce his consumption or quit? Or can he not?

2. Is he dependent on the use of this drug? This could be psychological or could be physical.

More signs of alcohol addiction

To help you answer these questions here’s a fairly simple definition of addiction:

Addiction is a condition characterized by repeated, compulsive seeking and use of drugs, alcohol or other similar substances despite adverse social, mental and physical consequences. It is usually accompanied by psychological and physical dependence on the abused substance and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the addictive substance is rapidly decreased or terminated. When addiction exists, the drug use controls the individual rather than the individual controlling the usage.

You can see this definition includes the two factors we just mentioned. Alcohol use will be compulsive. The person will not be in control. The psychological and physical dependence will drive further consumption. And he or she will usually (but not always) suffer withdrawal symptoms if alcohol consumption stops or is cut back quickly.

Tests for alcohol usually have a long list of signs to check for. But really, those test questions all boil down to these two characteristics. Let’s take a more detailed look at how those two characteristics can be manifested.

Losing Control

Example A

A young man goes away to college and isn’t prepared for the alcohol-consuming culture he encounters. He starts drinking every weekend, which progresses to drinking almost every day. He doesn’t think of himself as an alcoholic but he is unable to go to a party or sports event without having a beer in his hand. He can’t socialize or be with a woman unless he is thoroughly buzzed. He relaxes after tests by drinking to black out. He finally realizes his grades are slipping and decides he better cut back. But despite the intention to drink less, nothing changes.

young man drinking heavily

He’s not in control. If there’s alcohol around, he’s drinking. When he notices his life is changing for the worse, he’s still drinking. Even if there are days he doesn’t drink, the compulsion to do so drives him back to alcohol at the next opportunity.

Example B

A woman drinks at home most of the time, finishing a couple of bottles of wine almost every night. When she loses her job, she’s short on money and decides to stop buying wine until she starts working again. The first night she skips the wine, she finds herself unbearably depressed and anxious. At midnight, she runs out to the store for wine.

Both these people have lost the ability to control their drinking and have become dependent on it. The cause could be psychological or it could be physical, but the truth is, it’s probably a mixture of both.

Physiological Impact of Alcohol

The use of any drug causes physiological changes. There are toxins stored in the body as an aftereffect of the liver and other organs trying to break down and neutralize these substances. That’s because not every trace of the drugs or drink can be washed away and some residues remain behind.

internal organs

There is a change to the chemistry of the entire body as it adjusts to the frequent presence of these foreign chemicals. Sudden withdrawal of this foreign substance can cause a serious breakdown of the body’s function.

The liver, heart, pancreas, stomach, kidneys, lungs and brain all take a beating during heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption. Continued drinking conceals the damage but if alcohol is withdrawn, the discomfort will start showing up. The drinker is going to feel lousy. His depleted condition will probably cause him to emotionally feel very low and tired which could be diagnosed as depression. No wonder a chronic drinker will reach for another drink—he wants to cover up these symptoms.

For a more in-depth review of the health risks of drinking see:

Severe Drinking Causes Severe Damage

Most people know about the seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) that can hit the heavy alcoholic. A person who has drunk heavily enough and long enough can suffer a high fever during withdrawal, high enough to cause his death if it is not controlled with medication. This is an extreme case and is not present in every person who withdraws from alcohol.

Serious brain damage is also possible in cases of extreme and prolonged drinking, enough to cause aggression, difficulty walking (when not drunk), premature aging and loss of memory and cognitive ability.

The Psychological Impact of Alcohol

Even a young person can quickly develop a psychological dependence on alcohol. Similar to what is described above, a young woman finds that certain social or personal situations are easier if she is impaired by alcohol. It’s easier to hang out with her friends and go to clubs when she’s had a little (or a lot) to drink. She can associate with men more easily and feels like she fits in better and is more popular and attractive when she’s drinking. She begins to look forward to the nights she can get away and drink.

young woman drinking with friends

If she goes out with a group that’s not drinking, she’s uncomfortable, so she gravitates back to the drinking group. She is developing a psychological dependence on alcohol.

Recovering from Alcoholism

It could be said that taking a little time away from one’s life, career or education to achieve lasting sobriety may be the best investment one could ever make. It will be very difficult to ever achieve one’s goals or dreams as long as alcohol or drugs control one’s decisions.

In just a few months at a Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, those addicted to alcohol or drugs have found a completely new ability to enjoy sobriety. Being sober doesn’t have to be a grim struggle. It can actually result from the ability to set goals and achieve them and to manage healthy relationships with family and friends. Those graduating from this drug-free program find themselves more able to think clearly and often say that cravings are gone or far more manageable.

happy alcohol free group

You don’t have to let alcohol run your life. Contact Narconon today and learn how this holistic approach to recovery can be your fresh start in life.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.