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Alcohol Abuse Signs and Symptoms

It can be hard to tell if someone has been drinking alcohol. If someone shows one or more of the following warning signs, they may have a problem with alcohol.

Why DO people drink?

Drinking alcohol is part of many people's lives. Some people drink to relax or enjoy having a drink with dinner.

Since drinking is so common and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it's not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking.

Click the arrows to learn the Signs of "Problem Drinking"
What To Look For

If you see a combination of these 7 drinking habits with someone you care about, there may be a serious problem and the person needs help...

  1. Can't control how much they drink.
  2. Cannot quit drinking when they start.
  3. Need to drink more to get the same effect.
Continued >

  1. Have withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.
  2. Spend a lot of time recovering from drinking.

They feel sick to their stomach; have sweatiness, shakiness, and anxiety. In other words, have recurring "hang-overs."

Continued >

  1. Spend a lot of time drinking or have given up other activities so they can drink.
  2. A person continues to drink even though it harms their relationships and causes physical problems.
Do these drinking habits sound like the behavior of someone you care about? If so, there may be an alcohol abuse issue present. Continue to learn what exactly alcohol abuse is.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

It means having unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits.

Continued abuse of alcohol can lead to dependency or alcoholism.

Continue >

Alcoholism is a chronic disease.

It's not a weakness or a lack of willpower.

Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by your family genes and lifestyle.

Continue >

How do you really know if a loved one is dependent on alcohol?

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Moderate Drinking

The USDA defines moderate drinking as:

Moderate Drinking Definition for Men
Two alcoholic drinks
a day for men
Moderate Drinking Definition for Women
One alcoholic drink
a day for women
Source: National Institutes of Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism March 2011.

It's important to note that alcohol effects each person differently based on factors that can include weight, general health and family health history. Even within the USDA moderate drinking definition, alcohol abuse can occur if it is consumed too quickly or if other underlying issues exist. Men and women should know the USDA guidelines and consume moderate amounts of alcohol.

A standard drink is roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

Quick Facts About Alcohol

One drink can make you fail a breath test. In some states, people under age 21 can lose their driver's license, be subject to a heavy fine or have their car permanently taken away.

  • Alcohol is a drug. Mixing it with any other drug can be extremely dangerous. Alcohol and acetaminophen--a common ingredient in OTC pain and fever reducers--can damage your liver. Alcohol mixed with other drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, fainting, heart problems and difficulty breathing. Mixing alcohol and drugs also can lead to coma and death.
  • Alcohol is a depressant, or downer, because it reduces brain activity. If you are depressed before you start drinking, alcohol can make you feel worse.
  • Beer and wine are not "safer" than liquor. One 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine (about a half-cup) has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Alcohol can make you drunk and cause you problems no matter how you consume it.

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