Think you or someone in your family may have a problem with alcohol? Want to know more about the symptoms of alcoholism?

We asked the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to help answer our questions.

We know: Common Symptoms of Alcoholism

What is alcoholism?

At the present time, 14 million Americans (1 in 13 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. This means they have a dependency on alcohol and are chronic drinkers. Alcohol is a disease with identifiable symptoms.

What are the common symptoms of alcohol?

The symptoms include:

  • Craving for alcohol, or a strong need or compulsion to drink.
  • Loss of control, or the inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety that occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  • Tolerance, or the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get high.

Why is alcoholism referred to as a disease?

Alcoholics cannot control their drinking or exercise their willpower over their craving for alcohol. Many people can drink alcohol and do not experience this uncontrollable craving, but alcoholics do.

Alcoholism, like many diseases, appears to have a genetic component, so that some families experience more incidents of alcoholism than others.

What are the signs that someone may have a drinking problem?

Ask yourself these questions. If you answer is ‘yes’ to any of them, then it may be a sign you should not use alcohol.

  1. Do you feel you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have you ever been annoyed because someone has criticized your drinking?
  3. Have you every felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink early in the morning to steady your nerves, or help with a hangover?
  5. Have you ever encountered drinking-related problems with your job, family, relationships, the law or your health?

Is there a cure for alcoholism?

No, and it is not possible for alcoholics to simply cut down on their drinking. But there are many kinds of treatment programs available to help the person avoid drinking alcohol and stay sober.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide organization of men and women who help each other to stay sober. Virtually all alcoholic treatment programs include AA meetings.
  • In-patient or residential treatment programs vary widely in price and programming but basically help the person through withdrawal from alcohol use, and then use individual and group meetings to teach strategies for staying sober. Some programs also use medications.
  • Out-patient treatment programs use similar programs of group and individual counseling, but the person does not live at a treatment facility.

For more information on treatment, contact AA, your doctor or an alcohol rehabilitation program.

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