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How to Detect the Signs of Alcoholism

Not all alcoholics fit the stereotype of the down-and-out drunk. Learn to recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one.


  • Step 1: Weigh the importance of alcohol to you or a loved one. Is there a general preoccupation with drinking, like when, where, and with whom the next round will begin? Is it difficult to stop drinking once it starts, or to stick to a limit? Is a life without drinking impossible to imagine?
  • Step 2: Consider how much alcohol is consumed. Does drinking take place on a daily basis? Is binge drinking -- more than five drinks in one sitting -- a commonplace event? Do hangovers and blackouts occur frequently?
  • TIP: The compulsion to finish every drink – and even other people's – is a red flag.
  • Step 3: Examine the motives for drinking. Using alcohol as a mood enhancer or coping mechanism is common among alcoholics.
  • Step 4: Think about the guilt, if any, associated with drinking. Have there been promises to cut down? Lies told about the amount consumed, or about drinking altogether?
  • Step 5: Measure tolerance for alcohol. Being able to consume a lot of liquor with few signs of intoxication is not a badge of honor; it's a sign of addiction.
  • Step 6: Don't be fooled by the ability to hold down a job. As many as half of the 18 million American alcoholics are considered high-functioning, meaning they can spend years maintaining the facade of a normal life while drinking to excess, until something catastrophic happens.
  • Step 7: If you see these signs in yourself or a loved one, call The National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service toll free at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for help.
  • FACT: According to one study, 10 percent of the U.S. population's drinkers imbibe 50 percent of all alcohol consumed.

You Will Need

  • Reflection
  • Observation skills
  • Honesty

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