Learn About The Symptoms & Causes of Alcoholism

The signs, symptoms, and effects of alcohol addiction can be different for every person impacted. Learning about alcohol addiction is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Alcohol

Learn about alcohol addiction and substance abuse

An addiction to alcohol, known clinically as alcohol use disorder, is a prevalent problem throughout American society. The consumption of beer, wine, and liquor is an accepted, and almost expected, practice for individuals over the age of 21 throughout the country. Yet, although many people can consume alcohol on occasion without experiencing any significant detriments, there are others who quickly become ensnared in an ongoing cycle of alcohol abuse, over which they become seemingly powerless. When such is the case, individuals will frequently find that their abilities to function appropriately on a daily basis have become greatly hindered, resulting in countless negative ramifications throughout all areas of their lives.

The tolerance and physical dependence that results from prolonged alcohol abuse makes it exceedingly difficult for individuals to overcome because, should they attempt to put an end to their drinking, they are likely to experience the distressing period of withdrawal. For this reason and more, it is imperative that individuals who are battling an addiction to alcohol seek and receive appropriate treatment so that this devastating substance use disorder does not continue to wreak havoc on their lives.


Alcohol addiction statistics

Alcohol is one of the most popular substances of abuse, as it is an easily-accessible, legal substance for individuals over the age of 21 in the United States. Research has demonstrated that, at any given time, nearly seven million children are residing in homes where one or both parents are abusing alcohol. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), approximately 17.6 million adults in the U.S. suffer from an addiction to alcohol, which is the equivalent to about one in every 12 adults. The NCADD goes on to report that, of that population, over half come from homes where there was a prevalence of problematic drinking behaviors.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for alcohol addiction

There are a number of causes and risk factors that are cited as playing a role in the onset of alcohol use disorder. These factors are outlined briefly in the following:

Genetic: Addictions are known to have a genetic link to their onset. As such, individuals who have family members who struggle with the abuse of alcohol or other substances are more vulnerable to suffering from similar concerns than are those who do not have the same kind of family history. More specifically, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), as much as 40%-60% of a person’s risk for developing alcohol use disorder lies in his or her genetic makeup.

Environmental: Certain environmental factors can play a role in the development of an alcohol abuse problem. When individuals grow up in a setting where alcohol consumption is prevalent, especially as a means of coping, they are more susceptible to engaging the same behavior. Additionally, when individuals are exposed to highly stressful environments, whether it be at work, in school, or at home, they are more likely to abuse alcohol as a means of alleviating the stress that they experience. Furthermore, when individuals are subjected to various forms of trauma, including abuse or neglect, they may find reprieve from the subsequent emotional turmoil through the use of alcohol.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of abusing other types of substances
  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Suffering from a trauma
  • Lacking healthy coping skills

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

The signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction will vary in type and severity from one person to the next, but may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Continuously consuming alcohol despite possessing a desire to put an end to one’s use of the substance
  • Consuming alcohol in settings where it is hazardous to do so, such as drinking and driving
  • Continuously consuming beer, wine, or liquor despite the onset of persistent problems that are a direct result of alcohol consumption
  • Spending significant amounts of time engaging in activities that center on acquiring, consuming, or recovering from the use of alcohol
  • No longer participating in activities or hobbies that one once enjoyed
  • Failing to adhere to responsibilities at school, work, home, or in social settings
  • Slurred speech
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Flushed skin
  • Involuntary rapid eye movement
  • Development of tolerance, which is the need to consume greater amounts of alcohol in order to experience the desired effects
  • Development of dependence, which is the body’s need to have alcohol in order to continue functioning

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Inability to sustain attention
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased ability to reason and use sound judgment
  • Decreased ability to use appropriate decision-making skills
  • Powerful, all-consuming cravings for alcohol

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Significant changes in mood and temperament
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Hostility


Effects of alcohol addiction

An alcohol abuse problem can cause monumental problems to arise in regards to the user’s physical health. Examples of such ailments can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Brain damage

Yet, physical problems are not the only detriments that can result from an addiction to alcohol. Most, if not all, facets of an individual’s life can be negatively impacted by a substance use disorder of this nature, resulting in the onset of the following detriments:

  • Decline in academic performance, potentially resulting in suspension, expulsion, or academic failure
  • Decline in occupational performance, potentially leading to demotion or job loss
  • Financial difficulties
  • Demise of marriages or partnerships
  • Loss of child custody
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Social isolation, resulting in deteriorated friendships and struggles within other important relationships

Co-Occurring Disorders

Alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders

It is not uncommon for individuals who are battling an addiction to alcohol to also be suffering from symptoms of various mental health disorders. Examples of disorders that are known to co-occur alongside alcohol use disorder can include the following:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of alcohol withdrawal: When someone has been stuck in a pattern of over-consuming alcohol for a prolonged period of time, he or she will likely experience a period of withdrawal upon cessation of alcohol use. The withdrawal process can be extremely uncomfortable and, at times, even dangerous, which is why it is most beneficial for individuals to go through the process under the close supervision of professionals. Signs and effects of alcohol withdrawal may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hand tremors
  • Pulse rate exceeding 100 beats per minute
  • Heightened feelings of anxiety
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Intense cravings for alcohol

Effects of alcohol overdose: Also known as alcohol poisoning, an alcohol overdose can be a life-threatening experience. Occurring when an individual consumes more wine, beer, or liquor than his or her body is capable of appropriately metabolizing or excreting, an overdose on alcohol should be considered a medical emergency, with treatment being sought immediately. Signs that could indicate that someone has overdosed on alcohol can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Clammy skin
  • Violent vomiting
  • Skin developing a bluish tint
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Labored breathing
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Delayed response to stimuli
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

This was the best place I could have ever chosen to go get help at! Unlike other behavioral health places in the Memphis area, Crestwyn is a very nice facility staffed with the kindest and most helpful people ever!

– Former Patient