What Do You Need to Recognize Alcohol Addiction? Awareness. Attention. Action.

how to spot an alcoholic
Recognize the signs of alcoholism. See through the shadows and save a life.


Alcohol misuse is like any other disorder. The sooner you spot its symptoms, the earlier you can seek treatment for your loved one and help him rebuild his life, love, and career. An alcohol-addicted person does not always have the physical capability or mental clarity to recognize the troubling signs of alcoholism. Some people might also want to mask alcohol use. The onus is on you to recognize the signs and save a life.

Here are 6 ways to spot a person addicted to alcohol:

1.Unusually High Tolerance to Alcohol

Unusually high tolerance to alcohol indicates chronic misuse. Look out for these signs in your loved one:

  • He usually drinks much more than others in a group.
  • He needs more drinks than others in the bunch to experience the same effects.
  • He progressively needs more drinks to obtain the same level of intoxication as before. Start tracking from now or reflect back to the time when he started drinking, and you will notice this rising trend.

2.Regularly Indulging in Risky Behavior

Alcohol impairs judgment. One drink too many makes even a rational, sensible man incapable of thinking straight or thinking things through. A person addicted to alcohol may not always have his senses about him, especially after an episode of binge drinking, to judge the risks involved in his activities. At other times, alcohol makes a person lose control over his impulses, so he engages in risky behavior.

Watch out for these signs of risky behavior:

  • Drinking before driving
  • Drinking before operating machinery
  • Stealing money from other people or objects from shops to fund drinking
  • Getting involved in alcohol-related violent activities, like fighting over alcohol
  • Exhibiting risky sexual behavior at the risk of contracting STDs
  • Mixing alcohol with other illicit drugs and/or prescription medication

3.Engaging in Secretive Behavior

Many people hide their alcohol use. They don’t want to let their loved ones know about their addiction or be bothered with questions. You should be suspicious if you notice the following signs:

  • Hiding alcohol bottles in medicine cabinets, closets, or the basement
  • Drinking alone in the room
  • Sneaking away to secluded areas at the workplace to drink
  • Lying about the number of drinks he has had or if he drank in the morning

4.Frequent and Abnormal Mood Swings

Alcohol affects the brain in many ways. Drinking alcohol leads to a surge in dopamine levels. Staying away from drinks causes dopamine levels to fall that, in turn, triggers depression and irritability. If a loved one misuses alcohol, mood swings can be a common occurrence as he alternates between drinking and abstinence.

Watch out for these signs:

  • Mood swings that range from euphoria to depression for no apparent reason
  • Irritability and anxiousness in an otherwise calm person that indicate he may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Snappiness and rudeness when rituals, like drinking every evening after getting back from work, are disrupted

5.Exhibiting the Telltale Physical Signs of Alcohol Misuse

Persons addicted to alcohol are not always intoxicated. Nor are they always swaying and struggling to stay on their feet and mumbling incoherently. But it is definitely a sign of alcoholism if a person exhibits the following physical signs frequently:

  • A flushed appearance
  • Red or blotchy skin
  • Trembling hands

6.Loss of Interest in People and Favorite Activities

Persons addicted to alcohol make drinks their focus in life. They direct their physical and mental energies towards procuring alcohol and looking for opportunities and/or hideouts to drink. They exhibit the following signs:

  • Lose interest in the activities they once used to enjoy, either because they are too physically stressed from effects of alcohol or these pastimes do not involve alcohol
  • Reduce or stop interacting with their loved ones either because they fear being discovered or can’t bear questioning
  • Prioritize alcohol over loving relationships

Contrary to popular notion, these people are not always broke. Nor are they always between jobs. High-functioning alcoholics may hold responsible positions at the workplace, raise families, and take part in social activities where alcohol is not involved. In fact, they may not exhibit any of the signs of alcoholism mentioned above because they can mask usage and/or withdrawal symptoms. But sooner or later, alcohol will catch up with them. So if you have a hunch, be more vigilant around these people.

Meanwhile, don’t wait for a friend or a family member to show all the signs of alcoholism. Every person is different; they react to alcohol differently. If you suspect something, investigate closely and seek professional help.

What Do You Need to Recognize Alcohol Addiction? Awareness. Attention. Action.

Why Are Successful Addiction Treatment Programs Successful?

Those Who Heal


How successfully a person is able to kick off his addiction depends on completing a treatment and rehab program, keeping up with medications and therapy, and attending support group meetings regularly. However, some addiction treatment programs are more geared towards success than others. Almost everyone who checks into these programs find it easy to progress through the stages. Almost all of them return to their earlier healthier lives, resume relationships or form new and more meaningful ones, be active and productive, and remain addiction-free.

The success is due to the comprehensive evidence-based and holistic treatments these programs provide. These treatments are easy to stick to and bring lasting benefits.

Detoxification by Specialists

As the moniker suggest, detoxification is the process to rid the body of the toxins that accumulate after a prolonged period of substance misuse. Sometimes, the addicted person is weaned off the substance. Others may be administered medicines to help them break their addiction. Different drugs are used for different types of addiction—Benzodiazepines for alcohol addiction, methadone for heroin addiction, etc. Clearly, a medical practitioner should administer these drugs.

But the detoxification process is more complicated than it sounds. Prolonged substance misuse or addiction takes over the brain and alters its chemistry. The result is that when an addicted person goes cold turkey, his brain goes out of whack and reacts by exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range from mild anxiety and niggling headaches to life-threatening strokes and seizures. Again, a physician should be around to manage these symptoms.

Detoxification has to be carried out under the supervision of specialists who are trained to manage the process and the complications that may arise during the procedure. A successful addiction treatment program provides detoxification by specialists. They monitor you 24×7 during this critical stage to ensure that the detox period is safe, painless, and comfortable, and you are ready to advance to the next stage of your rehabilitation program, totally cleansed.

Dual Diagnosis and Integrated Treatment

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 50 percent of all people with severe psychiatric illnesses also have substance use disorders. On the other hand, 37 percent of alcohol-addicted people and 53 percent of those who misuse drugs have at least one form of severe mental disorder.

Substance use disorder and one or more mental illnesses often co-occur because of the complex interplay of genetic and neurological factors and the peculiar ways in which these interact with the environment. For instance, the presence of certain genes increases the risk of a person developing both substance use and psychiatric disorders. The presence of certain genes makes a person more vulnerable to environmental stress, so he is more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol.

Sometimes, people with psychiatric disorders take to drugs or alcohol to numb their turbulent emotions or feelings of low, or to escape from their dark, brooding thoughts. Alcohol consumed in moderate quantities can decrease depression, and what starts off as a means to get on a high or get back the feeling of being in control progresses to full-blown addiction. Sometimes, addiction can cause a psychiatric disorder or worsen the symptoms of an already-existing mental illness. For instance, alcoholism triggers depressive thoughts.

A complete recovery is not possible and chances of relapse increase if one condition remains untreated. It is also imperative that co-occurring conditions are treated simultaneously. An integrated treatment approach is the most effective, as proven by multiple studies (Wüsthoff et al, 2014; Mangrum et al, 2006). This methodology overcomes the drawbacks of the sequential and parallel treatment methods. However, its success depends on the expertise of the substance use and mental disorder specialists and the degree of coordination among them.

Counseling Sessions

Knowledge is power. With knowledge comes understanding, and understanding empowers you to take charge of your life. Counseling is an integral part of an addiction treatment program. A counselor educates the addicted person on his condition, so he understands it and knows that he has the power to reclaim his life.

During these sessions, counselors try to understand the personality of the addicted person—his patterns of behavior, thought processes, belief systems, and typical responses—and the world he works, plays, and lives in to analyze his condition and identify the stressors in his life that may have triggered the addiction. He is then taught coping mechanisms like problem-solving strategies and mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help him tackle problems and manage stress. These efforts are part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that aims to reorient the addicted person’s perspective and make him realize that he can deal with the curveballs that life throws at him without resorting to drugs.

Successful addiction treatment programs include both individual and group counseling sessions. Here’s a note: one method is not better than the other. It is just that one may be more effective than the other in a specific situation.

Many persons undergoing rehab feel supported and motivated when they interact with their peers and share stories during group counseling sessions. But some people may feel more comfortable opening up and talking about themselves and their conditions when they are alone with the counselor. These people should undergo individual counseling sessions. Besides addiction counseling, individual psychotherapy sessions are also advised for people with dual diagnosis.

Addiction is more than the body’s dependence on the addictive substance. The mind reacts to these substances as well. For instance, a person who was once addicted to cocaine may still believe that the substance will cure his unhappiness. So he will reach out for it when he is stressed. Just walking past a pub can trigger urges in a person recovering from alcoholism, and if he has not learned to control his mind, he ends up yielding to the cravings. The objective of counseling is to alter thought patterns, shift attitudes, modify behavioral responses, increase self-esteem, and instill a sense of being in control in the addicted person. Eventually, the addicted person learns to control his mind and say no to drugs and alcohol.

Comprehensive Aftercare Programs

Addiction is a chronic disorder, so relapse is not uncommon. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 60% of people recovering from some form of addiction relapse. The rate of addiction relapse is similar to what it is for common chronic ailments like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure when patients fail to keep up with their treatments. But addiction relapse is not inevitable either.

Addictive substances rewire the brain, so even after the drugs are washed out of the body, their effects persist. It takes some time for the brain to unlearn the responses it had learned during a prolonged period of misuse. So psychological and social cues like stress and being around people from the addiction days can trigger cravings that the brain has not yet learned to ignore.

Cravings usually peak within 30 and 90 days after quitting drugs or alcohol. Incidentally, this period coincides with the end of the standard 30-day addiction treatment program when the person returns to his world outside the safe haven of the rehab facility. It is also the world that contains the stressors that had triggered his addiction. During this period, it is critical that a professional helps him identify addiction triggers, learn coping mechanisms relevant to the world he is now supposed to function in, boost his self-esteem, and make him realize the repercussions of a relapse. A comprehensive addiction aftercare program prevents a relapse or a lapse from progressing into a relapse by providing support, guidance, and motivation to tide through a challenging phase.


Addiction treatment is a multi-stage, multi-pronged approach. Every aspect of the treatment program should be handled by professionals who should, in turn, coordinate their efforts with the practitioners from other disciplines to provide integrated treatment. A successful addiction treatment program not only weans an individual off the addictive substance but also empowers him to take back control of his life and recreate it without resorting to drugs or alcohol.

Why Are Successful Addiction Treatment Programs Successful?

Addiction: Whatever the Etiology, the Consequences Are the Same


He is a man in his 40s. Intelligent, articulate, and well-mannered. But only when he is not high on drugs, which is not too often. He has a hard time holding on to a job and has been fired from work countless times after his bosses got the wind about his drug addiction. He is a college graduate. He could have carved a stellar career for himself; instead, he now borrows money to buy drugs. Bad genes? Dysfunctional family? Could be, but are you sure?

She is a young mother of two adorable kids. But she is hardly around to laugh and play with her children, preferring instead to shut herself in her room and drink till she passes out. Her marriage is on the rocks. The children are not cared for properly. Her house is a mess. Irresponsible mother? Bad wife? Actually, she may not be entirely at fault.

Those who know—scientists, physicians, and counselors—do not write off these people because they know that they didn’t make their choices willingly and knowingly. Addiction is not a moral flaw.

It does not take too long for someone who had just been “experimenting” with an addictive substance to start misusing it. Addiction usually follows. A host of genetic and environmental factors contribute to addiction.

Addictive disorders have moderate to high heritability. The instance of a person developing substance use disorder is greater the closer he is to an addicted family member. But then it is also true that close relatives live in similar environments and are exposed to similar environmental addiction triggers. So in most cases, addiction is caused by an interplay of genetic and environmental factors.

What compounds matters for persons misusing drugs and alcohol is that prolonged exposure alters brain chemistry, usually temporarily. The result is that they are then led by their brains to sustain their addictions.

Addictive substances tweak the reward system of the brain, which is a cluster of specific neural circuits that make us regard certain experiences as being “pleasurable” and remember these. Naturally, these memories make us crave these experiences. Mother Nature has intended for us to recognize life-sustaining activities like eating and having sex as being “pleasurable.”

Unfortunately, addictive substances too bring on such feelings of pleasure because they all flood the brain with the happy hormone dopamine. For instance, low-to-moderate consumption of alcohol has been shown to decrease depression. Heavy drinking clouds the senses—a broken relationship does not hurt much nor do the debts seem big after downing a couple of drinks. For many people, drinking becomes an escape from a reality that they believe they cannot control. The brain remembers these pleasurable experiences and makes the person reach out for the bottle often and even when he is not feeling the blues.

These changes take place at the cellular level, so addiction is difficult to shrug off.

Furthermore, there is a vicious cycle at work here. Addiction wreaks havoc in the lives of the addicted individual. He may not be able to fulfill his professional and personal responsibilities satisfactorily. The results are not hard to fathom. Job losses, broken relationships, financial woes, and health problems bring on stress that in turn, compels him to seek pleasure in drugs or alcohol. Remember that bright college graduate or that young mother? Maybe they were compelled by their emotional stresses to take to addictive substances, and now they cannot keep away from them.

The etiology of addiction is complex and diverse. But the consequences are same for everyone—precious lives going to waste, talents frittering away, and families being ripped apart. With understanding comes compassion, cure, and HOPE.

Addiction: Whatever the Etiology, the Consequences Are the Same