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Recent studies indicate that over 38 million American adults are abusing alcohol, and alcohol abuse is responsible for 80,000 deaths per year and is the 3rd leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. You should know the common signs and symptoms of alcohol, first and foremost for yourself but also perhaps for someone you care about when you see them getting into dangerous and destructive drinking patterns and behaviors.
Someone who abuses alcohol on a regular basis will begin to need alcohol as a means to cope, and use it as somewhat of a medication, to "relax" or relieve stress. This is a tell-tale sign of a drinking problem. This abusive drinking can be very hard to detect because it is so socially acceptable. Using alcohol to self-medicate only provides temporary relief and if this pattern of drinking continues the drinker becomes more and more reliant and dependent on alcohol not only emotionally and psychologically, but physically. So, if you find yourself using alcohol in this way, or someone else, it is a red flag that alcohol abuse is a problem and will probably only get worse.
Another tell-tale sign of alcohol abuse is when someone doesn't know their limits, and drinks to the point where they are doing things or putting themselves in situations which could negatively impact their lives. The drinker could only intend on going to a bar and having a few drinks, but not being in control of their alcohol use could end up having 6 or 8. This is often where peer pressure comes in, because the social setting and certain environmental factors can also have an influence on the amount someone drinks in one sitting. It can be a lot harder to stop drinking even though you know you should, when your drinking companions aren't don't drinking.
Someone could also drink to the point that they are "blacking out" when they continue drinking past the point of obvious intoxication. It may not be so obvious to them at the time if they do have an alcohol abuse problem. But when they drink to a point where they're blacking out, and don't remember half the night, this is very dangerous and worrisome not only for the drinker but other people around them. If someone in this condition decided to operate a motor vehicle for example, it could have catastrophic consequences. So, someone who does become so intoxicated that they don't take their real-life responsibilities, their safety and the safety of others into consideration, or isn't even aware of what's going on around them when they drink, they would need help coming to terms with that fact that they have a drinking problem.
Moreover, not knowing one's limit and drinking past the point of intoxication could cause alcohol poisoning. Drinking to the point of getting alcohol poisoning does not occur with individuals who drink responsibly and in moderation, so it is an obvious sign and symptom of alcohol abuse. When alcohol poisoning occurs, the areas of the brain essential to sustaining the person's life begin to shut down. Breathing is affected as is heart rate and body temperature, and they may go in and out of consciousness, vomit, and could choke on their own vomit if left unattended. If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, they should receive medical attention right away.
Alcohol abuse is a serious problem when drinking to become drunk becomes more of a priority than the drinker's important life obligations such as work and family. When someone is too hungover to go to work, or too drunk or hungover to be a focused and attendant parent, a problem of alcohol abuse needs to be addressed. Abusive drinking that begins to affect one's social, family and work life can cause further problems when someone is in denial about their alcohol abuse. You can't resolve something you won't admit to or take responsibility for. What ends up happening when alcohol abuse persists are conflicts and problems in the home and workplace that directly stem from their drinking and consequences of their alcohol abuse.
Individuals who are abusing alcohol regularly will inevitably begin to build a tolerance to the effects of alcohol and will need to drink more to become drunk. This symptom of alcohol abuse is a result of someone regularly dosing their bodies with alcohol, and one of the strongest indicators of a drinking problem. Another indicator is dependence, which is when someone actually has a physical and psychological reaction to the lack of alcohol in their bodies, due to consistent and persistent alcohol use. They may experience anxiety and depression, and crave alcohol to relieve these symptoms, and other physical symptoms such as shaking, trembling, nausea and lack of appetite more severe than just a typical hangover. If someone needs to drink more alcohol to relieve any of the above symptoms, it is more than just a red flag it is a sign that they may need help in the form of an intervention from friends or family before the drinking problem gets any worse.