Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Signs You Have a Drinking Problem

Are you worried that you may have a drinking problem? You aren't alone. Whether you're misusing alcohol or exhibiting signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD), having an alcohol problem is more common than you think.

15 Signs You're Drinking Too Much

Several factors can indicate if you’re drinking too much. If you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s time to evaluate your alcohol consumption:

  • Drinking alcohol interferes with work or school
  • You feel depressed when not drinking or after drinking
  • You’re dishonest about how much you’re drinking, or you hide your consumption habits
  • You’re sleeping poorly
  • You’ve tried to cut back or stop and failed
  • Waking up with dry eyes and other symptoms of dehydration
  • Stomach issues with no other explanation
  • Mood swings or only feeling at ease when you’re drinking or know you will be drinking soon
  • Forgetfulness
  • You have a high tolerance for alcohol
  • You have physical cravings when not drinking
  • You’ve been neglecting self-care and hygiene
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms after drinking

Health Risks of Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Signs you have a drinking problem include developing health conditions and increasing your risks of:

  • Involvement in automobile and other accidents
  • Violence as a victim and against others
  • STDs
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Creating or exacerbating chronic diseases
  • Eventual alcohol dependence
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues
  • Certain types of cancer, including breast cancer 
  • Osteoporosis
  • Brain damage
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Heart disease
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Problems with the central nervous system (CNS)

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Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

AUD encompasses a range of behaviors from mild to severe and includes various physical and psychological symptoms.

Below are some key symptoms that may indicate the presence of AUD:

  • Tried to stop or reduce drinking and failed 
  • More time spent drinking over recovering from drinking 
  • Strong urges or cravings to drink
  • Inefficient at work and school
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to quit drinking despite physical, social, or interpersonal problems
  • Neglecting social life, activities, and hobbies
  • Withdrawal symptoms occur after drinking due to physical alcohol dependence

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When to Seek Treatment for Alcoholism

Recognizing when it’s time to seek treatment for heavy alcohol consumption can be a life-and-death decision. Some of the most common signs that it’s time to do so include:

  • You have health problems that have no other root cause, such as new health issues 
  • Your relationships are strained due to drinking 
  • You’ve neglected responsibilities related to work, school, family, and more
  • You’ve tried to quit drinking without success
  • You’ve been diagnosed or have symptoms of a mental health disorder and your drinking seems to cause it

When to Seek Medical Help

Ask for immediate medical intervention when you experience any of the following alcoholic ketoacidosis symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed movement
  • Irregular breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased alertness that can transition into a coma

You should also ask for help when you’ve required medical attention for alcohol intoxication after excessive drinking in the past.

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Signs You Have a Drinking Problem
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What is the Difference Between a Drinking Problem & Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a drinking problem, but not all drinking problems are alcoholism. Here's the difference between the two:

Drinking Problem

A drinking problem usually refers to a pattern of unhealthy alcohol consumption that might manifest as habitual and frequent heavy drinking. Such patterns can emerge due to lifestyle factors or stressors and may develop into concerning habits. 

Those with a drinking problem often consume alcohol excessively or more frequently, signaling an issue. While serious, treatment for a drinking problem isn't always necessary.


Alcoholism is a medical condition that develops over time through persistent unhealthy drinking behaviors. It involves physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. 

This dependence is so strong that people continue drinking despite facing serious negative consequences to their health, relationships, careers, and legal standing. Withdrawal symptoms, such as intense cravings, set in when stopping consumption. 

Addressing alcoholism typically requires structured addiction treatment and support. Overcoming it often involves professional help and therapy.

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Stages of Alcoholism

Alcohol addiction doesn’t just happen overnight. There are stages of alcoholism that turn a problem drinker into a full-blown alcoholic with alcohol dependence.

  1. Pre-Alcoholism: Occasional drinking escalates, developing alcohol tolerance
  2. Early Alcoholism: Alcohol-induced blackouts, obsession with alcohol
  3. Middle Alcoholism: Consequences and outward signs, attempts to cut back
  4. Late Alcoholism: Prioritizing drinking over everything, hitting "rock bottom" signs
  5. Recovery: Steps towards sobriety, lifelong process with potential relapse


A drinking problem or alcohol use disorder is more common than you think. If you’re experiencing any signs of heavy alcohol consumption, evaluate your drinking habits and seek treatment if necessary.

Alcoholism is a type of drinking problem that involves physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. A drinking problem may involve unhealthy drinking patterns.

Seeking alcoholism treatment can save your life and improve your overall well-being. Reach out for help if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction to make positive changes in your life.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Mäkelä et al. “Mental health and alcohol use: a cross-sectional study of the Finnish general population.” European Journal of Public Health, 2015. 
  2. Alcohol use disorder.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  3. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023.
  4. Groh et al. “Friends, Family, and Alcohol Abuse: An Examination of General and Alcohol-Specific Social Support.” The American Journal on Addictions, 2010.
  5. EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016.
  6. Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 2015.
  7. Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023.
  8. Agg, J. “Ten Signs You’re Drinking a Little Too Much.” Mail Online.
  9. Oliviero, H. “Binge Drinking, Risks Common Far beyond Frat Houses and the Young.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2018.

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