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How to Identify if Someone Has a Drinking Problem

Jan 11, 2024 | Addiction, Adolescent Treatment, Adult Treatment, Alcohol, Detox, Substance Abuse, Withdrawal

Drinking alcohol has become normalized for many in our society. Social media has created an environment where binge drinking is comical and drinking alone is acceptable. Even those who think their relationship with alcohol is normal might find themselves struggling to contain their usage. For some, occasional or moderate alcohol consumption can escalate into a more serious issue. 

Recognizing the signs of a drinking problem is important for both the individual and those around them. In this blog, we explore some of the indicators that may suggest someone has a drinking problem and offer insights into how to approach the situation.

The Difference Between Social Drinking and Problematic Drinking

Social drinking typically involves moderate alcohol consumption during social events without major negative consequences. On the other hand, problematic drinking goes beyond occasional or moderate intake, leading to adverse effects on physical health, mental health, relationships, and daily functioning.

Signs of a Drinking Problem

Personality Changes: When a person has a drinking problem, you might notice their personality changes as soon as they consume alcohol. In many cases, their personality will become the opposite of their sober self. For example, a shy person may become outgoing.

Frequent Binge Drinking: Engaging in binge drinking, defined as consuming large amounts of alcohol within a short period, is a red flag. This behavior is not only harmful to physical health but also indicative of a lack of control over one’s drinking habits.

It’s Their Go-To for Stress: Coping with stress via alcohol is another indicator of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Using healthy coping mechanisms, like exercise, should be the go-to for dealing with tough times. Opting for a drink when stressed raises the body’s cortisol and causes more harm than good.

Morning Drinking: Drinking in the morning to cope with a hangover or as a need to feel normal is a clear sign that alcohol has become an issue. Those with alcohol dependency will experience shakes and tremors as they withdraw from alcohol. If a person is consuming alcohol upon waking to find a baseline, Alcohol Use Disorder is likely at play.

Not Taking Care of Responsibilities: A person with a drinking problem might start neglecting responsibilities at work, at home, or in their personal relationships. This neglect usually leads to a decline in performance and strained connections with others.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies: As alcohol consumption becomes a priority, people begin to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. This shift in focus can be a sign that alcohol is taking precedence over other aspects of life.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like tremors, anxiety, or irritability when not drinking, is a clear indication of physical dependence. This is a sign that professional help is needed.

Failed Attempts to Cut Down: Someone with a drinking problem may recognize the issue and attempt to cut down or quit on their own. Continual unsuccessful attempts could signal a deeper problem that requires intervention and support.

They Isolate Themselves From Others: Individuals with a drinking problem may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves. This can be a way to conceal their drinking habits or a consequence of strained relationships due to alcohol-related behavior.

They’re in Denial of the Problem: Denial is a common defense mechanism for those struggling with a drinking problem. They may downplay the severity of their drinking or dismiss concerns raised by friends and family.

Physical Health Issues: Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to physical health problems, including liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and neurological impairment.

Approaching the Situation Appropriately

Provide Information: Share factual information about the signs of a drinking problem and its potential consequences. This can help the person understand the severity of their situation.

Offer Your Assistance: Let the person know that you are there to support them and that help is available. Offer assistance in finding resources, like counseling or treatment programs.

Encourage Them to Get Help: Persuade them to get help from a professional, whether that be a doctor or a therapist. Getting help for alcohol abuse is not easy, but it is necessary for recovery.

Be Persistent: If the person is not ready to get help right away, do not give up on them. Remember that moments of crisis can make them more open to treatment, so use those times to support them and encourage them to get the help that they need.  

Final Thoughts

Identifying a drinking problem in someone you care about can be heart-wrenching, but stepping in could save their life. When you know what to look out for and how to intervene, you can feel confident as you move forward. Stay strong and know that professional help can get your loved one back on track.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  To learn more about our treatment programs, visit our website at or contact us at 800-685-9796.



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