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Signs Your Alcohol Consumption Has Become a Problem

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Although drinking is common in the U.S., it may not be harmless. Many signs of alcohol misuse can indicate when drinking becomes a problem.

Alcohol consumption is common in the U.S. According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 84% of U.S. adults have consumed alcohol at some point, and 51.7% of adults report consuming alcohol within the past month. While drinking may be common, that doesn’t always mean it’s harmless. 

When someone develops a problem with alcohol, they may not recognize their behavior as dangerous because alcohol use is so common. So, how do you know when drinking becomes a problem? Consider the signs. 


Signs of Alcohol Abuse To Look Out For

When someone abuses alcohol to the point of developing an addiction, clinically called alcohol use disorder (AUD), many signs of alcohol abuse relate to the symptoms associated with an alcohol use disorder. These include:

  • Spending significant time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking
  • Giving up other activities and hobbies in favor of alcohol use
  • Consuming larger quantities than intended
  • Being unable to reduce or stop alcohol use, even when the person desires to do so
  • Struggling to fulfill duties at work or care for family responsibilities because of alcohol misuse
  • Continuing to drink, despite arguing with important people, such as a spouse or close relatives, about alcohol use
  • Drinking even when it causes or worsens a health problem like high blood pressure
  • Consuming alcohol when it causes danger, such as drinking and then driving
  • Experiencing strong alcohol cravings (i.e., needing a drink first thing in the morning because of cravings)
  • Showing withdrawal side effects like headache, tremors or sweating when not drinking 
  • Developing a tolerance so that larger amounts of alcohol are needed to feel a “buzz” or other desired effects 

Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism

Someone who has developed an alcohol use disorder may show physical symptoms from alcohol misuse, which can include the following:

  • Slurred speech from intoxication
  • Inappropriate emotional responses (i.e., intense anger with little provocation)
  • Tremor and restlessness when withdrawing from alcohol 
  • Delirious behavior
  • Signs of cognitive decline or memory impairment 
  • Worsening health from alcohol misuse 

Health & Safety Concerns for Alcohol Use Disorder

When left untreated, alcohol use disorder can worsen health and safety risks from drinking to intoxication. Risks associated with alcohol use disorder are:

  • Alcoholic pancreatitis
  • Liver disease
  • Injuries from falls or motor vehicle accidents
  • Increased risk of violence
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Malnutrition
  • Various forms of cancer 
  • Respiratory problems like pneumonia 
  • Heart disease and stroke

While many of the problems linked to alcohol abuse develop after long-term, heavy drinking, some of the risks of drinking can come from just one occasion of drinking to intoxication. For example, driving under the influence just once can lead to a serious automobile accident. 

Related: What are the 5 Types of Alcoholics?

How You Can Help Your Loved One With Their Addiction

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s drinking, there are steps you can take to help. One of the best things you can do is encourage them to seek treatment.

When you’re ready to have a conversation to help your loved one, the following tips can be helpful:

  • Choose a time when they seem in a pleasant mood; the conversation will not likely go well if your loved one is stressed or upset.
  • Avoid blaming your loved one for their problems; instead, focus on the issue of tackling alcohol addiction.
  • Remind your loved one that many people benefit from seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. 
  • Give your loved one a chance to talk and express their concerns.
  • Expect that your loved one may become upset or defensive during the conversation. If they aren’t willing to talk, tell them you’re available for support whenever they’re ready. 

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction Today

If you’re looking for alcohol rehab in Missouri, The Recovery Village Kansas City is here to help. We offer comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment services, so you can select a program that best meets your needs. Current levels of care provided include residential treatment, partial hospitalization services and intensive outpatient care. Contact us today to begin your recovery journey.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Use in the United States: Age Groups and Demographic Characteristics.” 2023. Accessed August 14, 2023. 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2023. Accessed August 14, 2023.

Connor, J.P., Haber, P.S., Hall, W.D. “Alcohol Use Disorders.” The Lancet, March 5, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2023.