What Are the Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse?

Most of us assume we know the warning signs of alcohol abuse when we see them. While certain signs are obvious and noticeable, a good many of them often go undetected by close friends and family members. Perhaps we might take this opportunity to discuss some of the warning signs, and the most common signs […]

What Are the Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse?

Most of us assume we know the warning signs of alcohol abuse when we see them. While certain signs are obvious and noticeable, a good many of them often go undetected by close friends and family members. Perhaps we might take this opportunity to discuss some of the warning signs, and the most common signs that friends and family often miss.

It turns out there are a lot of misconceptions out there on this topic. The truth is that many alcoholics are ‘functioning alcoholics’ and you’d never even believe they had a drinking problem as there are no obvious signs. These are individuals who are good at their job, sometimes even top performers, yet they are also fully dependent on alcohol to function normally. They cannot relax or sleep until they’ve had a drink (cite: 1).

Yes, there are those who abuse alcohol, who have one drink and can’t stop drinking until they are totally drunk and have fallen down in a drunken stupor. And, yes, we all know of people who exhibit very bad behavior after about their second or third drink. We’ve seen abusive spousal behavior, bar room conflict, and drunk driving crashes. These are the obvious signs of alcohol abuse, and the behavior we generally associate with alcohol abuse (cite: 2).

What Are the Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic?

A functioning alcoholic rarely gives any clues to their drinking problem and they may not even realize they have a problem. In fact, they don’t associate ‘problems’ with drinking but rather drinking as a viable way to alleviate problems and stress. At the end of a long day, they might have two or three hard alcohol drinks then go to bed.

Since their body is dependent on alcohol, they are fine in the morning, without a hangover as there is still alcohol in their system. If they are out drinking with friends, they’ll be the one who is roaring and ready to go in the morning while their friends all have hangovers and want to sleep in, still feeling lethargic.

For the functioning alcoholic, a quick swig of alcohol or a drink at lunch and they are good to go for the rest of their day. Unfortunately, if they don’t get their drink by mid-afternoon, they can become a tad bit gruff, irritated, and hard to deal with. Once they get that drink, they are perfectly fine again until the evening.

Some of the warning signs of a functioning alcoholic are that they have stashed alcohol at their desks at work or in their car. They always have it close at hand. At home, it’s readily available, and often the hard stuff is their first choice, although they might start with some wine or beer.

References:

1.) “Psychological Correlates and Treatment Outcomes for High and Low Social Functioning Alcoholics,” by Robert C. MacMahon, Robert S. Davidson and Patrick M. Flynn, published in the International Journal of Addictions. Pages 819-835 | Published online: 03 Jul 2009. https://doi.org/10.3109/10826088609027395.

2.) “Early identification of alcohol abuse: Critical issues and psychosocial indicators for a composite index,” by Harvey Skinner, Stephen Holt and Yedy Israel published in the CMA Journal on May 1, 1981, volume 124.

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