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Common Signs of Alcohol Dependence Everyone Should Know

There’s a thin line between drinking for fun and developing a dependency, which is why everyone should be aware of the signs of alcohol dependence and the various indications that it’s time to take a step back—or get professional help.

Social drinking is common, especially in younger populations. With April being Alcohol Awareness Month though, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the difference between social drinking vs. problem drinking, including the first signs that you or a friend may have a dependency.

Here are the early signs of alcohol dependence you should know, plus a quick look at the differences between drinking for fun and drinking because you can’t stop.

Social Drinking vs. Problem Drinking

It’s important to know when alcohol use turns into alcohol misuse.

Drinking socially is a big part of our culture, and is defined as having the occasional drink or drinks as a means to relax and/or socialize with others. This may happen a few times one week and then not at all the next, and the drinks are considered a part of the activity, rather than the activity itself.

Problem drinking, on the other hand, can look like constant thoughts and cravings for alcohol, as well as an inability to limit consumption. And if an individual is unable to physically or mentally stop drinking despite it having a negative effect on their life, that is then considered alcohol use disorder.

Can Social Drinking Lead to Alcohol Dependence?

When it comes to drinking, it’s only fun until it’s not—and it’s difficult to know when that threshold will occur.

Just because you drink socially does not mean you are dependent on alcohol, even if you do so regularly. However, social drinking can be a gateway to more problematic consumption, especially if you are already susceptible to it, such as if you have a family history of alcohol dependence or are suffering from other mental health conditions.

If you find yourself asking, am I alcohol dependent?, that’s a sign that you might be passing the point from social to problematic drinking. There are other signs of alcohol dependence to look out for too, and to always keep top of mind so you can address the problem if and when it occurs.

Common Symptoms of Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependence

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse and dependence, it may be time to seek help.

  • An inability to stop at just one or two drinks
  • Regularly binge drinking
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking until drunk
  • Needing to increase the amount you’re drinking to get the same effects
  • Thinking about alcohol constantly
  • Putting drinking ahead of relationships and responsibilities
  • Attending work or school while under the influence
  • Using alcohol to numb feelings of pain, sadness, or anxiety
  • Lying about drinking
  • Feeling physical and/or mental withdrawal when not drinking

Alcohol Dependence Infographic

Alcohol misuse disorder is a disease, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you find yourself slipping into dependence or something even more serious. Instead, you should reach out for assistance before these issues get worse because continuing on the same path could lead to dangerous results.

Social and “party” drinking doesn’t always lead to alcohol dependence or misuse. But because it can, it’s essential to be educated about the signs that something is wrong. We encourage you to learn more about substance misuse and what it looks like. And if you find yourself in need of professional support, please contact Retreat Behavioral Health to learn about our outpatient and inpatient substance use services.