According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million American adults, ages 18 and older, had what’s known as Alcohol Use Disorder.
Based on 11 criteria regarding individual drinking habits, AUD can be classified as Mild, Moderate or Severe — the latter of which is what, in laymen’s terms, is considered alcoholism. That number amounts to 4.5 percent of the entire U.S. population, which means chances are good you probably know someone who has a drinking problem.
If it’s someone close to you, it may be enough of a concern that you want to offer help — but how do you know for sure? There are a number of warning signs you can look for that may reveal whether someone you love may need help:
- Their entire social life revolves around alcohol. They’re enthusiastic about events where alcohol will be available and tend to avoid ones that do not. Every social function or celebration has to involve alcohol.
- They drink to relieve stress. If they’re having a bad day, they’re counting down the minutes until they can get “relief” from a drink.
- They get defensive about their drinking. If someone suggests they should cut back or stop, they grow resentful, even angry; they make excuses for why they drink or point to peers who drink just as much as examples of how they couldn’t possibly have a problem.
- They have a high tolerance. They can put away several beers, drinks or shots and show no overt signs of being drunk, and people often talk about how they can “hold their liquor.”
- Their personalities change when they’re under the influence. If they’re shy, they become gregarious; if they’re closed off, they become overly emotional; if they’re gentle, they become aggressive.
- They drink in the mornings, or excessively at lunch, or at other periods of the day when other people do not. They often take steps to hide this fact, such as excessive teeth-brushing or mouthwash consumption.
- They don’t know when to quit. Even if they set a limit — “I’m only going to have three drinks tonight” — they seldom, if ever, adhere to their own boundaries, and they push to keep the party going even after everyone else is ready to call it a night.
- They’re suffering consequences from over-indulgence: DUI arrests, job losses, failures in school. They may not even see the correlation between their drinking and those consequences, instead blaming others — overbearing bosses, zealous cops or obtrusive professors — for the problems their drinking has caused.
- They make rash decisions while under the influence: Insisting they’re OK to drive, or leaving the bar with a complete stranger, or other actions that sober judgment would prevent them from undertaking.
- They show physical and emotional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal: trembling hands, profuse sweating, extreme irritability and other hallmarks of acute alcohol detoxification, all of which are usually rectified by a drink.
There are other warning signs, to be certain, but if the person about whom you’re concerned exhibits one or more of these traits, then they could very well have a problem. If their alcohol consumption concerns you, your first instinct may be to ignore it out of the belief that it’s none of your business, or because you don’t want to come across as judgmental or “preachy.”
Consider these statistics, however: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “an estimated 88,000 people … die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” In addition, in 2014, “alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths,” or roughly 31 percent of all car crash deaths.
Speaking up can save a life — theirs, and those they might endanger. If you’re unsure how to broach the subject, you might be interested in learning more from Cornerstone of Recovery:
According to the NIAAA, “however severe the problem may seem, most people with (Alcohol Use Disorder) can benefit from treatment. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of them receive any treatment.” At Cornerstone, we’re ready to offer a helping hand to those who might need it. Check out our website for more information, or call our Admissions Department directly at 1-866-865-3689.