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It’s easy to tell when a person has been drinking. Signs include slurred speech, uncoordinated movements, lowered inhibitions, and alcohol breath. However, identifying a deeper addiction may not be so black and white.
Alcoholics may be able to hide many of the more obvious symptoms of addiction for a long period of time. Too often the addicted person and the people around them choose to ignore the addiction, or find themselves in a state of denial about the realities of the alcohol addiction.
Pay attention to the warning signs if you suspect that a friend or loved one is addicted to alcohol. Certain behaviors may indicate that a person’s pattern of drinking is the result of addiction.
Signs of alcoholism include:
You may also experience physical symptoms (known as "withdrawal") when you’re unable to drink. These symptoms are signs of a physical addiction, when your body feels it’s unable to act and function as it should without the alcohol. These symptoms include:
Alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism. People who abuse alcohol but are not physically addicted may experience the same signs and symptoms as people who have alcoholism. But people who abuse alcohol often don’t have the same cravings or need to drink that a person with alcoholism does. Instead, a person who abuses alcohol isn’t able to control their drinking when they do drink.
Alcohol abuse is a less serious issue when compared with alcoholism. At the same time, it can come with many health complications and can lead to alcoholism if it’s not treated.
There is no simple diagnostic test to confirm an alcohol addiction. Rather, addiction is a diagnosis of exclusion. When all behaviors and health problems are taken into consideration, your doctor may determine that your drinking is in fact an addiction.
To reach a more informed conclusion, some doctors use questionnaires to evaluate your dependence on alcohol as well as your behavior when you consume it. Your family members, colleagues, and friends may also be asked to answer similar questions. They may be able to help your doctor understand the root of your problem as well as any behaviors that trigger drinking. Knowing this will help your doctor determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation.
Written by: Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jun 02, 2015: Steven Kim, MD
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