First Signs of Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 15, 
| 4 Sources

Early Signs Of Alcoholism
Alcoholism Warning Signs

Distinguishing between heavy drinking and the early signs of alcoholism

"Is my drinking getting out of control?"

"Is my wife/husband/child becoming an alcoholic?"

"Drinking alone, is that one of the early signs of alcoholism?"

These are all perfectly reasonable questions to ask yourself if you are worried about your drinking or that of someone you care about.

Alcohol dependence is not a joke, it is a matter of life and death.

The First Signs of Alcoholism
Why it's Important to Know

There are ten warning signs of alcoholism.

But they are not all present in the early stages of alcoholism.

It is important to catch alcoholism early and do something about it. Why? Because it destroys people physically, mentally and emotionally. On top of this it does immeasurable damage to those around the alcoholic.

Unfortunately due to alcoholism denial, a common characteristic of the alcohol dependent, it is an uphill struggle to get help to an alcoholic in the early stages of the disease.

When trying to identify whether you or someone you care about is displaying the first signs of alcoholism, it is important to know the difference between alcoholism warning signs and problem drinking. (for a more detailed discussion of the difference between the two, read drinking problems)

First Signs of Alcoholism
Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism

Both alcoholism and problem drinking are damaging. Damaging to your health, both physical and mental, and damaging to those who care about you.

However, although alcoholism is most definitely problem drinking, problem drinking is not necessarily alcoholism.

Confused? Let me explain.....

If you have a problem with drinking (you abuse alcohol) it means that you use alcohol in such a way that it is harmful to you.

What I mean by this is that the way you use (abuse) it harms you in some way. It could be affecting....

  • Your physical health
  • Your mental health
  • You relationships
  • Your job

....and yet you continue to drink despite these problems.

These are NOT the first signs of alcoholism but signs that you have a problem with drinking.

Although problem drinking may lead to alcoholism it is not alcoholism.

The Early Signs of Alcoholism
What are they?

There are three stages of alcoholism.

The first signs of alcoholism become apparent in the first stage of alcoholism.


The individual....

  • longer uses drink socially. They may drink alone.
  • ....uses drink as a means to deal with their emotional problems. They may also use it to make themselves 'feel' happy.
  • ....sees their tolerance for alcohol increase. They can drink considerably more than their friends.
  • ....does not appear to be drunk although they have consumed a lot of alcohol.
  • ....does not appear to suffer from the ill-effects of drinking too much. No hangovers or the like.
  • ....might start to lie about how much and how often they drink.
  • ....becomes defensive when questioned about drinking habits.

The person in the first stage of alcoholism is often a functional alcoholic. He/she shows no outward signs of being addicted to drink, continuing to function as if everything is fine.

The First Signs of Alcoholism
What to Do?

If you suspect that you or someone you care about is showing the first symptoms of alcoholism then it is important you try and get help.

Some of the possible avenues you can explore include:

  1. Attend Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings.
    Alcoholics AnonymousAlcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of men and women who’ve had an alcohol problem. This seen by many as the one and only way to get sober. It is effective, but only for a small minority. Despite popular belief, it is estimated that only a tiny minority actually succeed using this method. Recent research has shown that only 5% of alcohol dependents actually remain sober for three or more years using the 12 steps (the main philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous’ approach). However do not discount it until you have tried it. For more on their approach read Stop Drinking Alcohol With AA.
  2. The Sinclair Method.
    The Sinclair Method, developed by Dr. John Sinclair, uses the medication Natlrexone and has a far better success rate than AA. It has been shown to be effective in over 78% of cases sinclair method (Read Results with Naltrexone and Nalmefene: Clinical Trials and Reviews for more on research into Naltrexone and its effectiveness when used to combat alcohol dependency). It is interesting that little is known of this method despite it seeming to be the best treatment for alcoholism available, some say that this is due to vested interests in the addiction treatment industry working against any innovation that might damage their business. Go to The Sinclair Method to learn more about this breakthrough.
  3. Self-help.
    There are a lot of resources that claim to be able to help you deal with your drinking. A lot of them are ineffective and offer false hope. There is one I have come across that offers alcoholics and problem drinkers a way out (if they are prepared to work hard at overcoming their problems). How To Give Up Alcohol gives alcohol dependents the tools to quit drinking without AA. For those problem/binge drinkers who do not want to give up alcohol, it provides a way for you to return to moderate drinking by showing how you can control your alcohol intake with a little bit of planning and a lot of perseverance. Although a bit on the expensive side, this e-book is a fraction of the cost of a treatment center,and anyway you can’t really put a price on reclaiming your life from alcohol.
  4. Treatment Centers.
    A treatment center is a great place to get sober. sinclair methodThere are, however, a couple of downsides to this form of getting sober. The first is that a stay in a treatment center is fearsomely expensive. If you have insurance then this is not a problem, if you don’t then the cost may well be too much (some centers can cost up to 40,000 dollars for an eight week stay!) The second problem is that most treatment centers (about 90%) follow the 12 step method of alcohol treatment to the letter. If you find it hard to stomach the 12 step program, then a treatment center may not be for you. Read Alcohol Addiction Recovery for more on alcohol treatment centers.
  5. Baclofen.
    There are many who have managed to defeat their drinking problems by taking the drug baclofen,baclofen and alcohol which is licensed to be used in the treatment of the spasticity associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Although not licensed for the treatment of alcohol dependency, those who have tried it swear by it. Dr. Amiesen, a French cardiologist stumbled on baclofen’s potential for treating alcoholism when struggling with his anxiety and alcohol dependence. Baclofen helps lower anxiety in alcoholics, which could help curb alcohol cravings. One of the great advantages of using baclofen is that abstention from alcohol is not necessary. In fact continuing to drink is an essential part of the treatment. Intrigued? Read Baclofen And Alcohol for more on this form of alcoholism treatment.
  6. Other Treatments.
    There are countless ways of treating problem drinking. Nonetheless, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to alcoholism. What may work for a person may not work for someone else. Understanding the different treatment options can be a crucial first step. We have gathered what we consider the best and put them on one page, for more read Alcohol Treatment Programs.

Another option is to go to a counselor. Debbie Morrow, who works with The Alcoholism Guide, has extensive experience advising clients with drinking problems on the treatment options open to them. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with her, fill out this questionnaire.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Alcoholics Anonymous. What is A.A.?.

Sinclair Method. What is the Sinclair Method? Baclofen for Treating Anxiety and Alcoholism. December 18, 2012.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help. 2014.

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