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Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

You might not realize that you have a drinking problem. You might not drink every day, or you might not drink large amounts when you drink. You might go for days or weeks between drinking episodes. You might say you're a "social drinker."

But even if you don't drink alcohol very often, it's still possible to drink in unhealthy ways and to be at risk for becoming dependent on it.

Signs of alcohol use disorder

Watch for the following signs of alcohol use disorder:

  • You find it difficult to resist urges to drink alcohol, even when you have something important to do.

  • You have problems at work or school because of your drinking. These may include being late or absent, being injured at work, or not doing your job or schoolwork as well as you can.

  • You drink in dangerous situations, such as before or while driving a car.

  • You have blackouts. This means that after a drinking episode you cannot remember what happened while you were drinking.

  • You get hurt or you hurt someone else when you are drinking.

  • You continue to drink despite health problems that are caused or made worse by alcohol use, such as liver disease (cirrhosis).

  • Your friends or family members are worried about your drinking.

  • You can’t quit drinking or control how much you drink. You drink more often than you want to, or you drink larger amounts than you want to.

  • You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking, or you have given up other activities so you can drink.

  • You have tried unsuccessfully to quit drinking or to cut back the amount you drink.

  • You continue to drink even though it harms your relationships and causes you to have physical problems.

Signs of alcohol use disorder with physical dependence

Watch for the following signs of alcohol use disorder with dependence:

  • You need to drink more to get the same effect.

  • You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These include feeling sick to your stomach, sweating, shakiness, restlessness, depression, anxiety, or sensing things that are not there.

  • You worry that you won't get enough alcohol for an evening or weekend.

  • You have physical signs of alcohol difficulties, such as weight loss, a sore or upset stomach (gastritis), or redness of the nose and cheeks.

Symptoms of withdrawal

If you are physically dependent on alcohol and you stop drinking, you may have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sick to your stomach

  • Vomiting

  • Sweating

  • Nervousness

  • Irritability

  • Shakiness

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Restlessness

  • Sensing things that are not there

Withdrawal symptoms usually start several hours after you stop drinking. Withdrawal seizures usually occur within the first 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink. Severe shakes, confusion, and hallucinations (also known as delirium tremens) usually happen about 3 days after you stop drinking. If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking is a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for medical attention. A medical evaluation can address alcohol-related health problems and lead to treatment for successful change. Your healthcare provider can prescribe medicine to prevent or treat alcohol withdrawal. Medicine can also support your recovery by reducing alcohol cravings and the risk of relapse.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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