10 common signs of a drinking problem

What’s the difference between unhealthy drinking and a drinking problem? We review here.

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Do you think that your drinking has become a problem? Or perhaps you’re worried about a loved one. Whatever the case, alcohol problems usually manifest predictably.

Here, we review some of the common signs of problem drinking. And we offer you hope for what you can do about it. More here, with a section at the end to evaluate if drinking is a problem. We also invite you to share more about your personal situation. In fact, we’ll try to respond to you personally if you leave a comment at the end.

Warning signs of drinking dangerously

Although the signs of alcohol addiction can show themselves in a number of different ways, there are warning signs that can be strongly indicative of a drinking problem. Regularly consuming over 2 – 3 units of alcohol a day can be dangerous to a person’s health. However, people who are addicted to alcohol will drink considerably more than this.

“When your drinking starts to impact on areas of your life and becomes more important that other things, that’s the time to ask for help.”
Claire Rimmer, Lead Therapist for Addictions – Priory Hospital Altrincham

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10 common signs of a drinking problem

1. Close friends, relatives or colleagues express concerns about drinking habits

An external viewpoint can often be far clearer than self-reflection. An alcohol addict will often find excuses for their drinking whereas their loved ones see it clearly.

2. Cravings for a drink affects mood or concentration levels

Feeling distracted and craving alcohol is a sign that your body is becoming dependent on alcohol and now needs it to stave off physical ‘withdrawal’ symptoms.

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3. ‘Self-medicating’ with drink because of problems at home, social or work life

Using alcohol as a coping mechanism can lead to a person drinking more and more because it only offers temporary relief. In the long run this makes things worse.

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4. Trying and failing to cut down on the amount of alcohol being consumed

If you cannot stop drinking, this is a sign of a problem. By displaying an inability to cut down or stop drinking alcohol a person is showing strong signs of dependence.

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5. Lying about or covering up drinking levels

Secretive or dishonest behaviour in relation to drinking highlights that a person knows that they’re drinking too much, and feels the need to hide it from others…

6. Weight loss and change to physical appearance

Heavy drinking can result in physical deterioration, and also in a person’s attitude to their appearance, caring less about it.

7. Drinking to the point of passing out

A common feature of the ‘binge drinking’ culture, black outs are indicative of such a large amount of alcohol that it affects brain function and this is also what affects a person’s memory. Being unable to remember large periods because of too much alcohol indicates you’re drinking too much.

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8. Having an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning

By having an ‘eye opener’ in the morning, a person is slipping into a routine in which they need alcohol simply to start the day. There is also added risk of being unfit to drive a car, as this ‘topping up’ process will likely push a person over the legal limit.

9. Finances are affected by the amount of money spent on alcohol

Often, a person begins to suffer from financial difficulties because of alcohol.

10. Drinking habits beginning to cause problems at home, socially or in work

Frequent small accidents or mistakes can begin to creep in, whether it’s errors in work or missed appointments.

By learning to recognise these signs it’s possible to help either yourself or a loved one and stop a drink problem from getting out of hand. Early intervention helps improve the chances of a positive outcome in any attempt to beat an alcohol addiction, so being aware of the tell-tale signs is a good way to be on guard.

If you’d like to learn more about Priory’s addiction services, please visit our addiction pages.

About the author
Priory is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK including mental healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and older people’s care. As the UK’s leading independent provider of addiction treatment services, Priory provides professional, specialist treatment programmes for a wide range of addictive substances and behaviours.


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  1. Thanks for listing the signs of alcohol,most of them are not aware of this problems ,I am sure this will feed some knowledge for drinks to know about the effects,keep creating awareness and keep sharing.

  2. I was sober for two years but felt I was spending as much energy being sober as I was on constantly drinking. I also felt that I was constantly alienated at social occasions and at 38 the thought of never ever drinking again seemed very daunting. I now have successfully used the Sinclair Method/Naltrexone to learn to drink without addiction by pharmacological extinction and feel that I have now found the perfect solution for me. I now, by choice, only drink 3-4 times a year but I am in full control as my brain is now repaired to its prior addiction state. To be sober is a great thing and is the perfect solution for many but I realised that addiction is a disease that can be cured with a pill just like any other disease and therefore you can be cured without the cravings or white knuckling by simply throwing some science at it. PS: I am in no way saying this is or should be the preferred way as I’m all for whatever works but I am all for people knowing all their options before choosing whatever path works for them. Harm reduction is the key here.

    1. Thank you BB, for sharing your personal experience. Recovery takes many routes, all individual and different, and I am glad you found what worked really good for you. I am sure that you will help inspire other readers to give it a try. All the best, Ivana.

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