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5 Signs Your Loved One Is Drinking Too Much

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

When you care about someone, you want them to be safe and healthy. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which puts their health and safety at risk. An alcohol use disorder is a medical diagnosis for problem drinking, characterized by compulsive drinking, a lack of control over alcohol use, or struggling emotionally when not drinking. Learn how to spot the signs.

How do you know if your loved one drinks too much? Consider the following 5 signs:

1. Too Much, To Often (Heavy Drinking)

Having more than 2 heavy drinking days per week increases the risk of an alcohol use disorder. Heavy drinking days are thought of having more than 4 drinks a day for men and 3 drinks a day for women. The more a person drinks on a daily basis, the more likely they are to develop a drinking problem.

Heavy drinking also occurs over the course of a week. For men, drinking more than 14 drinks a week is too much. For women, it’s 7 drinks. So, should you be counting your loved ones drinks? While the risky amount of drinking varies from person to person, knowing your loved ones drinking habits can help you figure out if they have an alcohol use disorder.

2. Little Control Over Drinking (High Tolerance)

You may notice once your loved one starts drinking, they can’t stop. One drink is followed by another drink, followed by another, and another, and so on. They may never have intended to drink so much, but continue to drink more without a second thought.

This suggests tolerance or needing to drink more to feel drunk. Most people drink because of the intoxicating effects, and tolerance develops after a person routinely drinks alcohol. You might find your loved one used to drink less than they do now, requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired effects.

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3. Drinking Leads To Risky Behaviors Or Dangerous Situations

When your loved one drinks, they often engage in risky behaviors. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, meaning they may do things that normally make them uncomfortable. This can lead to infidelity, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, or engaging in criminal activity.

Your loved one’s drinking also gets them into dangerous situations that increase their risk of injury. This happens frequently, or more than once, and may involve activities like swimming, driving, using heavy equipment or machinery, or walking in dangerous areas (like roadways).

4. Neglecting Responsibilities (Valuing Drinking Over Family, Work, Or School)

Excessive drinking causes your loved one to have problems at home, work, or school. Ignoring responsibilities are the result of drinking too much or feeling sick from drinking. Being late for work, missing deadlines, forgetting to pick the kids up from school, and neglecting other responsibilities for the sake of drinking (or recovering from drinking) are all signs your loved one suffers from an alcohol use disorder.

Problems may occur within relationships and family because your loved one favors drinking over the time they spend with you. They may isolate themselves in order to drink, refrain from their favorite activities, and avoid family or friends because they don’t want to be judged or confronted with their drinking habits.

5. Tried To Stop, But Couldn’t (Withdrawal Symptoms)

Maybe your loved one recognized they have a drinking problem, tried to stop, but couldn’t. The days were too hard, they didn’t feel well, and their emotions were out of control. They needed a drink to help manage their emotions or self-medicate, falling right back into the cycle of addiction. Because they drink too much, they experience alcohol withdrawal when they stop.

Other noticeable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • restlessness
  • shakiness
  • sweating
  • trouble sleeping

Treating An Alcohol Use Disorder

It’s never too late to get help if your loved one shows any signs of excessive drinking. Although millions of people suffer from alcohol use disorders, only around 10% of people enter treatment. There is no right treatment for everyone, but understanding the treatment options is a good place to start.

Treatment for an alcohol use disorder (AUD) may include a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and support groups. There is three government approved medications used to treat an AUD. Behavioral therapy can work to change your loved one’s thinking and attitudes towards alcohol. Support groups can add an extra layer of support during and after treatment. You and your loved one can decide the best method of treatment, which may involve inpatient or outpatient services.

For more information on treating an alcohol use disorder, contact us today.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Fact Sheets: Alcohol Use and Your Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Use Disorder

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Treatment for Alcohol Problems

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