Alcohol Addiction: Symptoms, Signs & Side Effects

Man battling alcohol addiction.

Alcohol, though a legal drug, carries a significant risk of addiction. Some of the most common physical, psychological and behavioral signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can place the user and others in severe danger. These symptoms can include skewed judgment, slowed reflexes and memory loss caused by the alcohol use. Because of this, alcohol may make life more challenging for the individual with alcohol use disorder and their loved ones around them.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol has immediate effects on the body and its functions. The immediate impact of alcohol use on the body can slow down reaction times, making driving or operating any vehicle that could be harmful, dangerous to the intoxicated individual and the people around them. In many cases, binge drinking can lead to blacking out and memory loss.

Noticeable signs of an individual who abuses alcohol include difficulties with motor coordination or the inability to walk properly and slurred speech. As alcohol abusers often neglect their nutritional health, signs of malnutrition, such as a skinny appearance, loss or thinning hair, and dark circles under the eyes, may also signal a problem.

The psychological effects of alcohol are immediately recognizable The person drinking may become forgetful, repeat themselves in conversations and lost their normal sense of judgment. Over time, individuals may develop sleep troubles or heightened levels of depression or anxiety symptoms when they consume alcohol.

Side Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol’s impact on the body starts from the moment of the first sip. An occasional nightcap may not be a cause for concern, though casual drinking can turn into an unhealthy habit over time as people increase the frequency and amount of alcohol they consume.

Alcohol can affect nearly every organ in the human body. People who consume alcohol at a high rate have a greater risk of heart-related issues than those who do not drink. Women who drink are more likely to develop heart disease than men who drink, especially if they are taking birth control.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause abnormalities in digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Accumulation of these weak enzymes can lead to pancreatitis, which can become a long-term condition and cause serious overall health complications. The liver is another organ damaged by too much alcohol use. The liver helps break down and remove harmful substances from the body, including alcohol. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process and increases the damage to the liver, its ability to remove toxins from the body and lead to liver disease.

When the pancreas and liver aren’t functioning properly due to alcohol abuse, the risk of experiencing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia increases dramatically. A damaged pancreas may also prevent the production of insulin leading to hyperglycemia, or too much sugar in the blood.

Side Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse

While the damage alcohol does to the body starts with the early stages of alcohol abuse, this damage can also accumulate over time. Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many physical health problems. Long-term alcohol abuse can also lead to undeniable psychological damage for the individual. Some risks of include that have been high among People with alcohol use disorder include:

  • Unintentional injuries, including car crashes, falls and drownings
  • Intentional “under the influence” injuries, such as firearm, sexual assault and domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems
  • Alcohol poisoning and hospitalization

Some health issues that are with long-term alcohol abuse include:

  • High blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage and Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Sex drive problems or impotence in males
  • Ulcers or gastritis
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat

These long-term side effects of alcoholism can cause problems with family or friends, legal trouble, financial issues and poor performance at work or school.

Alcohol’s impact on your body is more easily observable through its effects on the central nervous system. Slurred speech and lack of balance are two of the first signs visible when someone has had too much to drink. Alcohol can reduce the speed of messages between your brain and your body, making coordination more challenging.

Drinking hinders the ability to create long-term memories, think clearly and make rational choices. Chronic alcohol abuse can also cause permanent brain damage possibly leading to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that affects memory.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

An individual may have an addiction to alcohol if they drink more than planned or try to unsuccessfully cut back their amount of drinking.

Individuals addicted to alcohol usually spend a lot of time drinking, being sick, or hungover and wanting alcohol so badly they can’t think of anything else. They often are not able to complete (or begin) tasks without having a few drinks first. Alcoholics commonly have problems with work, school, or family

When going without alcohol, the individual may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, or hallucinating.

Signs of An Alcohol Overdose

When a person overdoses on alcohol, blood alcohol levels elevate to a point where the brain processes slow so much that the individual is at risk of dying without any symptom of serious danger. Alcohol overdose deaths can be the result of a number of uncontrolled processes, including irregular heartbeat, reduced or stopped breathing, choking, extreme dehydration, and dangerously low body temperature.

Alcohol poisoning, which can lead to overdose death or lifelong brain damage, involves several warning signs including:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow, irregular or stopped breathing
  • Hypothermia (very low body temperature)
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

If an individual experiences any combination of these symptoms after using alcohol, it is vital that they receive medical help right away. Never assume someone who is intoxicated will be fine just because they have fallen asleep.  Already-ingested alcohol can continue to damage the body by entering the bloodstream and circulating throughout the body even when unconscious.

If you are or a loved one is in need of help or assistance in alcohol rehab treatment, Orlando Recovery Center can help. Call Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative and learn more.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.