Alcohol Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Effects


Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of alcohol addiction is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with alcohol addiction.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Learn about alcohol addiction

Many people who struggle with a mental health disorder also struggle with addiction. Sometimes, those who suffer from mental health disorders use substances in order to cope with their struggles, and those substances can quickly become addictive. Alcohol addiction, clinically known as alcohol use disorder and commonly known as alcoholism, is a chemical dependency upon alcohol. Someone who is addicted to alcohol has little to no control over the amount of alcohol they consume, as well as the frequency with which they consume it.

The key components of alcohol addiction are tolerance and withdrawal. When first becoming dependent upon alcohol, an individual builds a tolerance to it. Tolerance means that it takes a greater amount of alcohol for you to achieve the desired effect. Withdrawal occurs when you then stop consuming alcohol and feel psychological and physiological stress.

Receiving professional treatment for alcohol addiction can greatly help you to manage your symptoms. With a support system behind you and a set of treatment tools, you can overcome your addiction and live a happier, healthier life.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Certain signs and symptoms accompany alcohol addiction. Symptoms can be behavioral, physical, or mental. It’s important to be aware of any signs that you or a loved one is experiencing an addiction to alcohol. Some common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Needing alcohol to experience pleasure
  • Drinking by yourself or in secret
  • Being unable to get through the day without drinking
  • Habitually “needing a drink” after a long day or a difficult circumstance
  • Using alcohol to help manage stress or sorrow
  • Prioritizing alcohol over responsibilities and relationships
  • Experiencing marked changes in appetite
  • Drinking even when it is dangerous to do so (e.g., drinking while on certain medications)
  • Repeatedly getting drunk, vomiting from alcohol consumption, and/or “blacking out” after drinking
  • Frequently making impulsive decisions while drinking
  • Trying but failing to stop drinking

Physical symptoms:

  • Unintentional weight gain
  • Red, swollen cheeks or nose
  • Slurred words
  • Watery eyes
  • Bad breath (i.e., breath that smells like alcohol)
  • Physical instability (i.e., problems with balance or coordination)
  • Tolerance (i.e., needing more alcohol to feel certain effects)

Mental symptoms:

  • Confusion or feelings of disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of alcohol addiction

If alcohol addiction is left untreated, you or your loved one is susceptible to certain short-term effects. The onset, development, and severity of short-term effects of alcohol addiction may vary from person to person. Please note that referring to these effects as short-term is not meant to imply that they are temporary or insignificant. If you notice any of the following short-term effects of alcohol addiction, please seek immediate professional treatment:

  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Violent and/or impulsive behavior
  • Strained relationships
  • Social withdrawal
  • Job loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Automobile accidents from driving while under the influence

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of alcohol addiction

If further left untreated, alcohol addiction can lead to long-term, or chronic, effects. The following are some of the long-term effects of alcohol addiction:

  • Permanent loss of relationships
  • Academic or career failure
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Arrests and/or incarceration from doing something illegal while under the influence
  • Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

If you or your loved one has experienced any of the long-term effects of alcohol addiction, please seek immediate professional treatment.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have alcohol addiction

Many of those who struggle with alcohol addiction also suffer from mental health disorders. Common co-occurring disorders for those who have alcohol addiction include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder

When you or your loved one receives treatment at Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, you will find comprehensive care for alcohol addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders. Please contact Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital for more information.

Effects of Alcohol Addiction Withdrawal & Overdose

Withdrawing from alcohol, and the risk of overdose

Effects of withdrawal: If you become addicted to alcohol, and then try to stop drinking, you may experience a variety of distressing symptoms. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are both serious and stressful and may include the following:

  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Twitches and tremors
  • Insomnia

Effects of overdose: Alcohol overdose can be extremely dangerous, and even fatal. Anyone who exhibits any of the following symptoms after consuming alcohol needs immediate medical attention:

  • Blue tint on lips or fingertips
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Cold skin
  • Faint heartbeat
  • Seizure


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