11 Ways to Spot an Alcoholic: Be Alert and Save a Life!

Ways to spot an alcoholic

Alcohol abuse is like any other disorder. The sooner you spot its symptoms, the earlier you can seek treatment for your loved one and help him rebuild his earlier healthy and productive life. An alcoholic does not always have the physical capability or mental clarity to recognize the troubling signs of alcoholism. Some people might also want to mask their alcoholic tendencies. The onus is on you to know how to spot an alcoholic and save a life.

Not all alcoholics show up to offices or parties in an obviously “drunk” state—staggering unsteadily and mumbling incoherently. Nor do all alcoholics sport slovenly looks. That someone is abusing alcohol or has already become a hardcore addict may not be apparent at first glance.

But you would want to know how to spot an alcoholic for the sake of a loved one whom you want to help lead a healthy, productive, and drug-free life.

Can alcoholism cause mood swings?

Yes, alcoholism can cause mood swings. Moods swings are also among the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. An alcohol abuser can have unexplained mood swings during the onset of withdrawal symptoms, even if they do not normally suffer from mood disorders.

How can you tell if a person is an alcoholic?


  1. Negligence to both personal and professional responsibilities
  2. Unexplained mood swings
  3. Drinking in risky situations
  4. Dishonesty about alcohol intake
  5. High alcohol tolerance
  6. Physical symptoms of alcoholism
  7. Psychological dependence to alcohol
  8. Unstable relationships
  9. Legal issues related to drinking
  10. Blackouts after binge drinking
  11. Drinking at inappropriate times

What are the signs of alcoholism?

The common physical signs of alcoholism are:

  • Flushed appearance characterized by the reddening of the face and other areas of the skin.
  • Trembling hands or uncontrollable shaking movement of other body parts.
  • Red blotchy skin or reddish skin rashes that show up while drinking alcoholic beverages.

11 ways to spot an alcoholic in your midst:

  1. Neglecting Personal and Professional Responsibilities

Unexplained absences from work, declining productivity, and neglect of household chores by an otherwise responsible individual are signs that the person probably does not have the physical energy or mental focus to perform his or her usual duties.

  1. Drinking in Dangerous Situations

Drinking in dangerous situations like before driving or mixing alcohol with illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine or prescription medicines despite being aware of the dangers are indications that the person is willing to take risks for the sake of drinking.

  1. Exhibiting Abnormal Mood Swings

Sudden and unexplained mood swings in an even-tempered person or someone who does not suffer from mood disorders may indicate the onset of withdrawal symptoms. If a person exhibits alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is likely that he or she has been drinking for quite some time.

  1. Lying About Alcohol Use

This indicates that the person is aware that his or her drinking habits are problematic or abnormal and is trying to mask them or play them down.

  1. Displaying a High Tolerance to Alcohol

This is a telltale sign of chronic alcohol abuse or full-blown alcohol addiction. The person not only drinks more but also shows the symptoms of being drunk long after most of his or her drinking buddies. Clearly, his or her body has become used to having alcohol in large quantities.

  1. Exhibiting the Physical Signs of Alcoholism

A flushed appearance, trembling hands, and red or blotchy skin are the typical physical signs of alcoholism.

  1. Drinking Alcohol to De-Stress

This indicates that the person may have developed a psychological dependence on alcohol and feels “compelled” to drink. Alcohol has become his or her way of relaxing, and without which, the person cannot calm down.

  1. Being Unable to Maintain Loving Relationships

Neglected responsibilities, secretive behavior or dishonesty, and concerns over finances take a toll on relationships. If a person is unable to quit alcohol for the sake of restoring harmony in relationships, it is evident that he or she values alcohol more than loved ones.

  1. Getting into Legal Trouble Due to Drinking

If frequent clashes with the law on charges of drunken driving, or disorderly conduct or violent behavior in a drunken state cannot keep a person away from alcohol, you can be sure that he or she prioritizes alcohol over life, safety and security, and acceptable social behavior. It is also likely that the person drinks so much that alcohol clouds his or her mind.1

  1. Experiencing Frequent Blackouts After Binge Drinking Episodes

This means that your loved one has had too many drinks. If there are several such episodes, you can be reasonably certain that he or she binge drinks often. Binge drinking is problem drinking behavior.

  1. Drinking at Inappropriate or Unusual Times

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant. In fact, it is this unpleasantness that compels a person to keep on drinking even if he or she is aware of the adverse consequences of alcoholism and wants to quit. In the case of many alcoholics, these symptoms start to manifest within a few hours of having the last drink.

If somebody HAS to drink in the morning or HAS to sneak away often during the day (even when he or she is in the workplace) to drink secretly, it is a telltale sign of alcoholism. They will rather hide and down a few drinks than go through the withdrawal symptoms.

Not all of the above-mentioned signs of alcoholism may show up together. In fact, some might never manifest at all. So if you notice a loved one exhibiting abnormal drinking behavior that is consistently landing him or her in trouble, seek professional help. When these signs show up, you can be sure that alcohol has already started to take a toll on the body and the mind of the individual.

Your awareness, vigilance, and prompt actions can save a life.


National Institute on Drug Abuse


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