Rehab 4 Addiction

Are you worried that a loved one might be hiding an alcohol addiction from you? If so, you should know the signs to look out for. People with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) can become very adept at hiding their drinking, even from those closest to them.

Alcoholism in the UK is unfortunately very common. There were 74, 618 people in treatment for alcohol alone in the year 2019-20. [1] This number doesn’t include people in treatment for other substances as well as alcohol, or dependent drinkers who aren’t in treatment. The number of dependent drinkers in the UK could be as high as 586,780, according to one estimate. [2]

Alcoholism can be quite easy to hide, at least in its early stages. After all, it is the most widely-consumed and widely-accessible drug in the UK: when everyone is doing it, it is very easy to blend in with the crowd.

One way to do so is through ‘hidden drinking’: drinking alcohol secretly so that your loved ones are not aware of it. Hidden drinking is one of the many signs to watch out for if you think that someone may be becoming dependent on alcohol.

What are the signs of alcoholism?

Alcoholism can manifest itself in lots of different ways, so the following is not an exhaustive list. However, we think these are some of the most common signs which dependent drinkers display.

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Bruises, cuts and other injuries
  • High tolerance for alcohol
  • Hidden or secret drinking
  • Finding any reason to drink
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Mental health problems

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal carries a potential risk of serious health problems. Normal alcohol withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant in themselves, but there is also the risk of delirium tremens, a condition which occurs in very dependent drinkers that causes hallucinations, among other symptoms.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bouts of depression
  • Tiredness and insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating

If someone you love is showing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, this is probably a sign that they are dependent on alcohol.

That being said, be careful when jumping to conclusions, as these symptoms could also be a sign of a different condition.

Bruises, cuts and other injuries

Unexplained injuries, especially bruises, are another sign of alcoholism. Alcohol is known to have an inhibitory effect on the brain and nervous system, which leads to a number of things, including diminished control over the body. Dependent drinkers will fall over and fall into things more often than those who are not dependent on alcohol, leading to cuts and bruises.

It is important to remember that cuts and bruises on their own are not a sign of alcoholism: it is only when the person with the injury cannot explain how they got the injury that it becomes more suspect. People who are dependent on alcohol may injure themselves and have no memory of it, or they may want to hide the reason for injuring themselves if their loved ones do not know about their dependency.

High tolerance for alcohol

When someone needs to drink more alcohol in order to achieve the same effect, this is known as tolerance. Someone who drinks alcohol daily will have a much greater tolerance for alcohol than someone who only consumes alcohol occasionally.

If you notice your loved one drinking more alcohol than before in order to feel inebriated, that is a sign of tolerance, which is a sign of alcoholism.

Hidden or secret drinking

If someone has developed alcoholism, and does not want their loved ones to know, they are very likely to be drinking in secret.

Secret or hidden drinking may begin in seemingly innocuous ways: a few drinks before going to a party, for instance. However, it can very quickly turn into a problematic habit. Secret drinkers may drink clear spirits, such as vodka, which can be disguised as water.

They may also add spirits to soft drinks or coffee and drink them during the day. There are many different ways in which secret drinking can occur.

Some people begin drinking in secret because it gives them a thrill: being slightly intoxicated without anyone knowing may be a pleasurable experience. The problem is that secret drinking, by its very nature, happens while the drinker is on their own, and without anyone else’s knowledge. This makes for a very slippery path towards alcoholism.

Finding any reason to drink

Dependent drinkers will want to drink no matter what the occasion is. If they feel happy, then they will want to celebrate with a drink. If they feel sad, they’ll want to drown their sorrows.

If you notice a loved one finding excuses to drink, especially during the week, or during the daytime, then that may be a sign of alcoholism.

Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy

Another sign of alcoholism is becoming less interested in an activity that used to be a source of enjoyment. People who are dependent on substances spend most of their time thinking about when they can next access substances. They have much less time for doing other, sober activities. Or they may reluctantly agree to do one of those activities – as long as they can have a drink first.

If your loved one used to have a favourite hobby, which they have neglected since they began drinking more heavily, then that could be a sign of alcoholism.

Mental health problems

Around a quarter of those who are dependent on alcohol will be taking medication for a mental health condition, most commonly depression or anxiety. [3] This is a much higher proportion than in the general population.

Research has shown that there is a major correlation between alcoholism and mental disorders, especially depression. Those with mental disorders are more likely to drink alcohol as a way of self-medicating, and those who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to develop mental disorders due to the chemical effects of alcohol (one of which is depleting serotonin levels).

If your loved one is showing signs of anxiety or depression, this could be a sign of alcoholism.

Final thoughts

We hope these signs of alcoholism help you to identify this disease in yourself or your loved ones before it’s too late. Alcoholism can be incredibly damaging to every aspect of an individual’s life, from their health, to their finances, to their relationships.

References

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/substance-misuse-treatment-for-adults-statistics-2019-to-2020/adult-substance-misuse-treatment-statistics-2019-to-2020-report#people-in-treatment-substance-sex-age

[2] https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics

[3] https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey-survey-of-mental-health-and-wellbeing-england-2014

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.