How Much Is Too Much? Spotting Signs of Alcoholism in Others

Watch These Traits If You Suspect a Loved One Has an Alcohol Use Disorder

“I need some help.”  The four words we wish someone struggling with addiction would say, but hardly ever do.  When you watch a loved one develop an alcohol use disorder, you may be the first to notice their changing condition.  Before you decide how to address the issue, make sure you’ve been looking at the right indicators.

What Should I Watch For?

Observing someone’s drinking habits at one event or on one day usually isn’t sufficient to tell if they need help.  They could be having an off day, or perhaps their drink was stronger than expected.  Alcohol use disorders are formed through a series of behaviors. Unhealthy drinking patterns are a good sign something is amiss.

Guidelines for Alcohol Use

Though everyone’s tolerance and safety thresholds are different, healthcare professionals use the following guidelines to determine whether someone needs to cut back.  Anyone who drinks:

  • many times each month or multiple times a week,
  • 3 or more drinks in a day, or
  • 5 or more drinks at one time

may have a drinking problem.  When evaluating someone’s drinking, it’s also a good idea to consider how dependent they are.  Consider questions like:

  • Are they often drinking or hungover?
  • Is their drinking affecting their performance at work or in school?
  • Do they experience negative emotions or health effects when they drink, but continue to do so regularly?
  • Is their tolerance higher than most peoples’?

It can be hard to analyze someone’s mental state through observation only, but if a loved one meets one or more of the points mentioned above, it might be time to take a deeper look.

Intoxication Affects People Differently

When pressured about their drinking, people with alcohol use disorders often try to hide their intoxication.  Though we all know the common tells for drunkenness (slurred speech, difficulty walking, bloodshot eyes), reactions to alcohol vary greatly across our population.

Some lesser-known signs of intoxication are:

  • Twitching or tremors
  • Speaking at a loud or inconsistent volume
  • Responding to conversational points late
  • Arguing or displaying aggressiveness
  • Excessive (and uncharacteristic) friendliness
  • Restlessness
  • Moodiness or sudden behavioral shifts
  • Memory lapses

If you observe unusual conduct or rapid changes in demeanor, you may be seeing the effects of intoxication.

What Can I Do to Help?

You can force someone to attend rehab, but they’re unlikely to see results unless they make the commitment to a program themself.  Telling someone outright that you think they have a problem will often push them straight into denial and lead them to reject your idea of attending treatment, even if they had been thinking about it on their own.  The best way to help sometimes involves keeping quiet about your opinions and providing a supportive and non-judgmental environment where they can discuss what’s on their mind.

The CRAFT Approach

Rather than staging an intervention, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests loved ones engage in the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) method, which focuses on encouraging positive and healthy behaviors.  Starting a discussion about alcohol use under these guidelines means planning your words ahead of time, staying calm during the conversation, and not making their behavior into a matter of you versus them. 

Dealing with an alcohol use disorder is psychologically difficult, and often people need time to come around to the idea of treatment.  Don’t be discouraged if your loved one doesn’t want to jump on the phone with a recovery provider right away.  They may just need time to think it over.

Know What Alcohol Poisoning Looks Like

While you’re waiting for a loved one to come around to the idea of treatment, they may still be drinking.  Sometimes a hands-off approach can be harmful.  If they are exhibiting symptoms of alcohol overdose, they need medical help as soon as possible.  Here are some indicators:

  • Vomiting
  • Clammy, bluish, or pale skin
  • Confusion or stupor
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining consciousness
  • Slow or irregular breathing: More than 10 seconds between breaths, or fewer than 8 breaths per minute

Alcohol poisoning kills an average of 6 people each day in America, so even if you’re not completely sure someone is in danger, it’s better to get them help than to wait and see. 

Recovery Options for Suwanee and Cumming Residents

The Carter Treatment Center offers outpatient care so your loved one can receive the professional help they need and deserve.  Outpatient programs can be scheduled around existing school or work commitments, allowing a patient to keep up with parts of their routine.  They’re also much more affordable than residential treatment.

If your loved one is ready for sobriety, we offer counseling and holistic therapies to help them get back on track.  Addressing the emotional need behind an addiction gives patients a better chance of overcoming it once and for all.  The Carter Treatment Center is dedicated to providing proven care options at the best prices for you.  

Want to learn more?  Call our Admissions team at (678) 737-4430 to learn how we’ve helped many patients move past their addictions and build a successful, sober life.

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