What Are The Symptoms Of An Alcoholic?

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The signs and symptoms of an alcoholic vary depending on a person's degree of alcohol dependency. Mild alcohol dependents can subtly hide it, while most chronic alcoholics can't.

Severe alcohol dependency shows withdrawal symptoms that include heart palpitations, hand tremors, excessive perspiration, problems in sleeping patterns, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, mood swings, hallucinations, and seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms  are common to severe cases of alcohol dependency, and this leads to easy detection.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome or AWS is the set of symptoms that shows once an alcoholic abruptly stops drinking. It is the phase where the body gets used to the effects of alcohol that it adapts to it and normalizes its presence.

However, for mild cases, the red flags and warning signs are often unidentifiable.

They commonly conceal their habit by distancing themselves from people and often opt to drink alone to avoid others from noticing their odd behaviour. The signs are almost subtle and only noticeable when the person reaches the chronic level of alcohol abuse.

Being secretive about their battle against alcoholism makes it difficult for loved ones to identify the issue and seek proper and effective treatment. If left untreated, mild alcohol dependency may result in more severe alcohol abuse and life-threatening effects on the body.

It often starts with a mild, manageable attachment with alcohol to calm the nerves and relinquishes stress.

Without noticing the changes, it becomes an irresistible habit that slowly becomes a part of your daily routine. It escalates to the extent that you can't function normally without it but ends up non-functional with it; either way, you're losing the battle.

The once mild alcohol dependency can screw up your life quicker than you can imagine. If left unmanaged, you will soon develop Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD, a condition wherein alcoholism negatively impacts a person's life and choices.

Unlike other diseases, there are no tangible signs and symptoms to determine whether a person is alcoholic or not. But odd actions and decisions sent off red flags. It often starts from one suspecting symptoms into another, and depending on severity, sometimes a series of symptoms exhibits.

Being on-guard, receptive, and observant about potential red flags and warning signs helps achieve early diagnosis. The general rule of thumb is that early diagnosis leads to early treatment. Here are a few notable warning signs to look out for.

Symptoms of an Alcoholic

  • Short term Memory Loss
  • Temporary Blackouts
  • Slurred Speech
  • Muscle Numbness and Cramps
  • Changes in Coordination and Balance
  • Ill-tempered and Irritable
  • Series of Mood Swings
  • Drinking alone
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Justifying their drinking behaviour
  • Choosing to Drink Over Other Important responsibilities
  • Frequently changing group of friends
  • Changed in appearance
  • Experiencing hungover when sober
  • Increasing Alcohol Tolerance
  • Lack of Interest in Work, School, and Other Activities.
  • Inability to Refuse Alcohol
  • The onset of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) when Sober

What are the symptoms of drinking too much alcohol?

The symptoms of drinking too much alcohol include lack of critical mental function, unconsciousness, vomiting, seizures, irregular and slow breathing, bradycardia or slowed heart rate, clammy skin, dulled responses, pale skin, and hypothermia.

 These short-term symptoms immediately exhibit once a person consumes too much alcohol in one sitting.

These symptoms also manifest when an intolerable amount of alcohol enters the bloodstream.

As you drink glasses after glasses of liquor, the body doesn't get enough time to process, flush, and clear the alcohol through excretion. Thus, leaving your body without any choice but to wait until alcohol leaves your system as you sober up.

Common Symptoms of Drinking Too Much Alcohol

  • Stupor or Mental Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulty to remain awake.
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Paleness of skin
  • Dulled Responses
  • Irregular breathing with a minimum of 10 seconds interval in each breath.
  • Bradypnea or slow breathing of less than eight respiration per minute.
  • Hypothermia or extremely low body temperature
  • Slurred Speech
  • Muscle numbness and cramps

However, long-term exposure to excessive alcohol intake takes a negative toll on the body and contributes to the onset of different symptoms.

Symptoms of Long-term Drinking of Too Much Alcohol

Weight Gain

Alcohol brings in empty calories that contain low to no nutrition. The body has no way of storing these calories, unlike food-derived calories. So, what happens to the body when alcohol is introduced?

Once alcohol is introduced to the system, the body goes haywire and forces itself to break down and process it. The body's natural metabolic process goes into overdrive, where it uses alcohol as a primary source of fuel. It leaves other lipids and glucose unprocessed, which eventually forms into adipose tissues or body fat.

Alcohol also affects normal brain function and distorts brain signals. It stimulates the brain's hunger signals that set off human's normal food consumption. This results in an uncontrollable urge to eat more.

As soon as alcohol enters the digestive system, the stomach and intestines are subjected to lots of stress. This results in a decrease in digestive secretions, which acts as basic elements in the food processing and break down. This leads to a domino effect of organ impairment, including the organs that function in proper metabolism and weight management.

In the long run, young adults who are constantly exposed to alcohol are at high risk of obesity in their late adulthood stage. And when this happens, health can rapidly spiral downwards, knowing the effects of obesity on the body.

Compromised Immunity

Alcohol weakens the immune system, which acts as the body's first line of defence against infection-causing bacteria and viruses. It disrupts the immune pathways of cells in each organ, making the body susceptible to diseases. It also decreases the normal recovery process of cells, tissues, and organs.

For example, alcohol impairs the immune cells and fine hairs in the lungs that act as barriers that keep the airway clear from obstruction and pathogens. Additionally, alcohol damages and potentially kills immune cells and live beneficial micro-organisms in the gut, which are responsible for maintaining gut health and normal function. Once a single organ goes dysfunctional, it affects the whole health in general.

Frequent Diarrhea

Alcohol causes stress to the digestive system and damages the tissues around your digestive tract. It results in malabsorption and the inability to process food and disrupts the normal delivery of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals throughout the body. The abnormally processed food particles cause stomach-aches, frequent diarrhoea, bloating, and gassiness.

Who is most likely to become an alcoholic?

Individuals who started drinking at an early age are most likely to become an alcoholic.

Old habits die hard, and so is alcoholism. The early introduction to the temporary pleasurable feeling of getting drunk gradually becomes a habit that even the body depicts as a new normal.

In a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people who started drinking at an early age are more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some point in their lifetime and are at greater risk of becoming alcoholics. The survey was conducted on 43,000 US adults.

Among all the study subjects who developed alcohol dependence at some point in their life, 47% or almost half of them developed alcoholism at the age of 21.

In a detailed sense, studies reported that a specific group of people are most likely to become alcoholics. The reasons for the higher possibility of developing alcoholic dependency vary from each specific group.

Good thing, support networks are readily available to all types of drinkers may it be a chronic or mild drinker.

Specific Groups Who are Most Likely to Become Alcoholics


Men are more inclined to develop alcohol dependency than women. There's no single solid justification for this, but there are contributing factors that amplify the risks.

First, men have a higher alcohol tolerance level than women. It has something to do with body size. Men, who are typically bigger than women in body size, need to consume more alcohol to experience insobriety than women.

Men's higher alcohol tolerance pushes them to drink more without thinking that the more they drink, the more they will likely develop alcohol abuse in the future. Society has created a standard that men should drink more. And they are expected to tolerate an excessive amount of alcohol in the body.

Second, men are perceived as natural risk-takers, and that they are most likely to get involved in risk-filled activities such as binge drinking to suffice the satisfaction of doing it.

Abused Children

According to the statistics recorded in the University of Maryland Medical Center, three-quarters of women battling with substance dependency have experienced physical and sexual abuse. It is often their way of coping up with traumatic psychological effects. Alcohol also makes them feel powerful and in control of their life; thus, succumbing to it is easier than facing reality.

Mentally-compromised Individuals

People suffering from mental health issues often self-medicate the symptoms by drinking alcoholic beverages to calm their minds and self-medicate the symptoms. Alcohol may give temporary escape from these symptoms, but once they sober up, the misery continues. This leads to an endless cycle of binge drinking, sobering up, and binge drinking again.

Help for Alcoholism is Available

It is time to consider to treat alcoholism in an abstinence-based alcohol rehab. 

Regardless of how it happened and why it happened, what's important is to understand that help is available.

Find out how our Addiction Treatment plans or Clinically Managed Detox programmes can aid you to seek treatment, contact our clinics directly either at Abbeycare Scotland, Abbeycare Gloucester or any of our other locations.  

Let's help each other and make a difference in society.

You can give us a call at our free 24/7 Helpline on 01603 513 091 or fill out the form below to speak via live chat with our expert addiction counsellor.

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.