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Alcoholism Warning Signs and Symptoms

Alcoholism is the most prevalent substance use disorder in the US today. Not everyone who drinks alcohol is not an alcoholic, but they should examine their drinking behavior.  The signs and symptoms of alcoholism are often overlooked or ignored.  

Ignoring the signs of alcohol use disorder can lead to severe health consequences.  Also, many people with AUD have lost their homes, jobs, and families due to alcoholism.  As a result, they lose self-respect and may drink more to escape the emotional deluge.

At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the complexities of alcoholism.  We know it can devastate lives if left untreated.  With that in mind, we created a treatment program to help individuals take back control of their lives and reach their full potential.

The following information may help someone realize that it may be time to seek treatment.

What is Alcoholism or AUD?

Alcohol Use Disorder is the preferred medical term for alcoholism.  The definition of alcoholism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is:

“A chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction.”

The main characteristics of alcoholism (AUD) include:

  • Inability to control alcohol consumption
  • Impaired ability to socialize or work
  • Tendency to drink alone
  • Engages in violent behavior
  • Neglects hygiene and nutrition
  • Continued alcohol use despite adverse consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is withheld

Some people don’t believe they are alcoholics because they only drink on the weekend. This behavior is known as binge drinking.  The NIAAA defines heavy alcohol use (binge drinking) as having more than 3 or 4 drinks in a short period.  

Binge drinking often starts in the teen years and worsens over time.  This happens because the person’s tolerance level increases. They need more and more alcohol to get the desired effects.  

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Recognizing these characteristics of alcoholism can help a person determine what their next step should be.  Can they cut down on drinking?  Can they quit on their own?  If not, it is time for professional treatment.  At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the challenges faced when quitting alcohol use.  Therefore, we offer compassionate and effective treatment to ensure lasting recovery.

More than 15 million adults meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.  The 11 criteria for recognizing addiction as shown in the DSM-5 include:  

  1. Drinking larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  2. Unable to cut down or stop alcohol use.
  3. Spending a lot of time drinking, getting, or recovering from alcohol.
  4. Strong cravings to drink more alcohol.
  5. Ignoring daily responsibilities.
  6. Continuing to drink despite damaged relationships.
  7. Avoiding social events, jobs, or recreational activities.
  8. Using alcohol regardless of knowing the dangers.
  9. Continued alcohol use in spite of physical or psychological problems that worsen.
  10. Needing to use more alcohol for the desired effect.
  11. Using more alcohol to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

When alcohol use takes priority over most aspects of a person’s life, it is a sign of alcoholism.  

Most of the visible signs of alcohol intoxication are common.  In fact, many people think of them as humorous.  But, in truth, the signs of intoxication can be a red flag that something serious is happening.  It’s wise to look at these signs with a little more scrutiny.

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Lack of coordination
  • Stumbling or falling
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Rambling speech pattern
  • Blackouts or unconsciousness

Mild or moderate intoxication goes away after the person’s body has metabolized the substance.  But, in some cases, intoxication can lead to falls and other accidents that cause injury or death. Intoxicated drivers caused more than 10,511 fatal automobile accidents last year.   

Alcohol-related fatal accidents cause too many needless deaths.  Our goal at Design for Change Recovery is to bring down the numbers and save lives.  We can accomplish this only if people with AUD enter our treatment program before a disaster occurs.

Health Consequences of Alcoholism

Overindulgence in any food or substance can have adverse effects on the body.  But, with prolonged alcohol abuse, the damage to a person’s health can be life-threatening.  

Heavy alcohol use can harm a person physically and mentally in many ways.  Here are some of the common health consequences of alcohol use disorder:

Liver Damage

When a person consumes large amounts of alcohol in a short period, the liver can’t process it fast enough.  The remaining toxins kill liver cells and cause scarring.  This condition is known as cirrhosis, and it is life-threatening.  

Long-term alcohol abuse also causes a condition known as fatty liver disease.  This disease is a sign that the liver is not functioning properly.

Heart Disease

Alcohol increases the levels of fats and cholesterol in the body.  Blood clots are more likely to occur in a person who drinks heavily.  As a result, the heart is affected and can’t function properly.  Heart disease is a common problem among many alcoholics.

Central Nervous System Damage

Heavy or prolonged alcohol use causes damage to the brain and central nervous system.  The effects may include memory problems, trouble making decisions, depression, and dementia.  Nerve damage can also cause lingering pain even after the person sobers up.


The link between alcoholism and cancer is undeniable.  Alcohol damages the tissues and cells inside the mouth, voice box, throat, and esophagus.  Over time, the damaged tissues become more susceptible to developing cancer.  Alcohol can also lead to cancer of the liver, intestines, stomach, and breasts.  

In addition to these health consequences, alcohol also causes a range of problems including:

  • Anemia
  • Gout
  • Infections
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Seizures

Alcohol-related health problems and deaths are a national concern.  Every city in every state has felt the effects of alcoholism in their communities.  Many local and governmental agencies work diligently to promote awareness about the dangers of alcohol use.  Some of their education and prevention efforts target teenagers.  The goal is to help them avoid a lifelong alcohol use disorder.

Overcome Alcoholism at Design for Change Recovery

Design for Change Recovery offers a comprehensive, individualized approach to treatment.  We offer effective, affordable treatment that targets each client’s unique needs.  Our secure, comforting environment allows a person to let go of outside stress and focus on healing.  We employ a dedicated, compassionate staff and are skilled and licensed in their field.

Successful recovery from addiction involves addressing physical addiction as well as emotional dependence.  Through a curriculum of activities and classes, clients spend their day learning the skills needed for maintaining sobriety.  

Clients also participate in activities that build confidence and improve self-esteem. When they leave our program, they possess the motivation and courage to tackle life as a sober individual. We don’t leave clients to take on the world all alone after treatment.  Our extended care program offers continuing support and guidance to ensure their success.

Learn more about our accredited, multi-modality program today.  Contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility to find out how we can help you or a loved one overcome alcoholism.


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