8 Signs Your Loved One Is an Alcoholic

man struggling with alcoholism

Alcohol addiction, despite its prevalence, is not always easy to spot. Many high-functioning alcoholics go for weeks, months, and years suffering from addiction before their loved ones even realize it’s a problem. Although full recovery from alcohol addiction can be achieved with the right support, motivation, and behavioral therapy, it is much better to enter treatment as soon as possible.

Before a person can enter detox and rehab for alcohol addiction, he or she must first be confronted with the problem or decide to go on their own accord. If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from alcohol addiction, there are several telltale signs that signal a need for professional treatment.2,3

1. Your loved one can’t stop drinking, despite his or her efforts to quit.

Many people who are addicted to alcohol feel bad about their drinking habits and know they have a problem, yet they can’t seem to quit no matter how hard they try. Unfortunately, overcoming alcohol addiction will take more than mere willpower, as addiction physically changes the way your brain works. Drugs like alcohol alter the way the neurons in the brain communicate, impacting the basic functions of various parts of the brain, including the brain stem, the cerebral cortex, and the limbic system.1 These parts of the brain have a huge impact on the way your loved one experiences pleasure as well as their decision-making skills, which can make it nearly impossible for them to stop drinking on their own without professional help.

2. Your loved one develops a tolerance.

Another very clear sign of addiction is developing a tolerance. This process happens gradually over time as a person continually abuses alcohol. At first, the person may get drunk very quickly, after just two or three drinks. Over time, the body will adjust to the presence of alcohol, and it will require more and more to achieve the same effects. For example, after months of heavy drinking, a person may be able to tolerate five or six drinks without appearing to be affected negatively. This is particularly dangerous because at this point, a person may feel like they are unable to function or get through the day without alcohol, yet they may appear to be completely sober. This is what we call a functioning alcoholic.

3. Your loved one experiences withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops drinking.

If your loved one stops drinking alcohol or they severely cut back and begin to experience physical and mental problems as a result, they are going through withdrawal. This is an outward sign that your loved one has become physically dependent on alcohol. Although physical dependence and addiction are two different things entirely, dependence often leads to addiction very quickly. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include headache, anxiety, shaky hands, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and sweating.4 Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous and it can even be deadly, so someone attempting to detox from alcohol should never do so without medical supervision. Medically-assisted detox at a detox center is the safest and most comfortable way to detox from alcohol.

4. Your loved one spends the majority of his or her time drinking or recovering from hangovers.

As is expected, people who are addicted to alcohol spend a great deal of time drinking and recovering from hangovers. If your loved one frequently misses work, family activities, or social events because he or she is drinking or recovering from a night of heavy drinking the day before, this should be a major red flag that something is wrong. Frequent binge drinking may also produce these effects, which is another dangerous behavioral trend involving alcohol.

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    5. Your loved one drinks instead of doing activities and hobbies they used to enjoy.

    Individuals who are addicted to alcohol often prioritize their drinking over other hobbies and activities they used to enjoy. If instead of playing a sport, spending time with family, or playing a musical instrument like he or she used to, you see that your loved one is more interested in going out and getting drunk, this should be a clear sign that alcohol abuse has become a problem.

    6. Your loved one keeps drinking despite the problems it causes at home, school, and work.

    Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that quickly seeps into other aspects of life. Although some alcoholics manage to keep their lives in order for a short amount of time (often referred to as “functioning alcoholics”), most people who are addicted experience a number of negative effects in various aspects of their lives, including at home, at work, and at school. If your loved one is an alcoholic, he or she may:

    • Lie about his or her behaviors or whereabouts
    • Disappear for hours or days without explanation
    • Show up late to work or call in sick frequently
    • Stop going to class or miss classes and exams frequently

    7. Your loved one puts themselves or others at risk for physical danger while drinking.

    If your loved one operates a vehicle, motorcycle, or machinery at work while intoxicated, he or she is putting themselves and others in direct physical danger. These kinds of actions are not only very irresponsible, but they may also result in loss of employment, legal fees, criminal charges and incarceration, extreme injury, or even death. People who are addicted to alcohol will not be able to make responsible judgments or decisions while they are under the influence of alcohol, and unfortunately, this often leads to dangerous and life-threatening decisions.

    8. Your loved one hides his or her drinking from friends and loved ones.

    It is also common for addicted individuals to hide their alcohol abuse from friends and family. Most often, this is done in an effort to not only conceal the behavior but also to avoid confrontation and criticism from loved ones. A person may also isolate themselves from friends and family for the same reasons. If a loved one is concealing his or her drinking behaviors, there’s a good chance they are out of control.

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    Start the Addiction Treatment Process with Medically-Assisted Alcohol Detox

    Regular abuse of alcohol can easily lead to addiction and dependence. Unfortunately, if an addicted person suddenly stops drinking alcohol, withdrawal can be extremely dangerous or deadly.

    Alcohol detox should never be attempted independently at home. Medically-assisted alcohol detox is the safest and most comfortable way to get sober. If your loved one is showing signs of alcohol addiction, it’s ideal to talk to him or her about the issue as soon as possible. In the case that he or she is resistant to change, a professional interventionist may be able to help you get your loved one into treatment.

    Briarwood Detox Center offers medically-assisted detox and executive detox in a comfortable and safe environment. Our knowledgeable treatment staff can also refer you to a professional interventionist if you need assistance planning and hosting an intervention. Please call Briarwood Detox today to get started.


    1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
    2. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/alcoholism-and-alcohol-abuse.htm
    3. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-symptoms
    4. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1

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