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Social Drinking or Addiction? How to Tell if Someone is an Alcoholic

How to tell if someone is an alcoholic or only a social drinker can be a challenge until it's too late, such as in the incidence of a drunken driving arrest or domestic violence.

Posted 5 years ago by Jim Titus

Alcoholism is one of the greatest challenges in law enforcement. Alcohol abuse can lead to domestic violence arrests, being combative with police officers, drunken driving arrests, and drunken driving fatalities. How to tell if someone is an alcoholic or a social drinker can be a challenge until it’s too late.

It’s important to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse in order to protect yourself and possibly help the individuals from hurting themselves or others.

Following are some ways you can tell if someone is an alcoholic.

1. They drink alone.

Social drinkers don’t often drink when they’re alone, but an alcoholic might drink alone on a regular basis, whether it’s at home or at the local bar.

2. They avoid going places where alcohol is not served.

If your loved one makes every excuse to avoid going places with you, ask yourself if it’s because alcohol will not be served there. This factor can be easily confused with the individual’s simple disinterest in the event, but if it’s a common occurrence, he or she could have a drinking problem.

3. They drink to get rid of the hangover.

Problem drinkers will often have one or two drinks first thing in the morning in order to alleviate the hangover symptoms. It’s quite similar to someone with a caffeine addiction needing that cup of coffee every morning in order to “get rid of the headache.”

4. They don’t seem to become intoxicated.

For more information about how to tell if someone is an alcoholic, consult with a drug abuse prevention counselor or mental health therapist.One way to tell if someone is an alcoholic is if they don’t appear intoxicated despite drinking a significant amount of alcohol. Once they build a tolerance to drinking, they will need more drinks to feel the effects of the alcohol consumption. This does not mean they are not intoxicated with just a few drinks. In fact, it more likely means that you and others around you have become used to the individual as he or she is while intoxicated. In other words, alcohol tolerance is about how the person feels, not how intoxicated they are. If anything, someone who has clearly been drinking excessively but does not show signs of intoxication is probably at a greater health risk.

5. Their personality changes frequently.

Even social drinkers tend to become argumentative, overly affectionate, or extremely emotional. When this regularly happens to your loved one, however, it’s a sign that there’s a problem.

6. They regularly engage in dangerous behavior.

Although a rare drunken night can lead you to make poor decisions, doing so becomes a pattern with alcoholics. This may include drinking and driving, fighting, and engaging in dangerous sexual behavior.

7. Their drinking is affecting their employment.

If someone you know drinks on the job, becomes intoxicated during work-related social functions, or has been fired, it’s a clear sign that they need help.

8. They pick fights.

An alcoholic will pick fights with loved ones in order to leave the environment and head to the bar. You probably won’t see it coming and won’t understand what the fight was about at all.

9. You can’t understand where all their money has gone, or they repeatedly ask you for money.

Someone’s financial situation is personal. He may have many expenses that you don’t know about, or she might not make enough money to make ends meet to begin with. If this person is close to you and you have eliminated logical reasons why they’re always broke, think about the possibility that this person is spending all their (and possibly your) hard-earned money on alcohol.

10. They become intoxicated during casual events.

It’s not unusual to have one too many drinks during a celebration or a night out, but a problem drinker will have more than one too many everywhere you go.

11. They become defensive if someone accuses them of drinking too much.

If you love an alcoholic, whether it’s your spouse, your child, or a good friend, here’s where the situation can become tricky. You may want to help by discussing it with them, but that often only angers them, which could possibly endanger both of you. Consult with an alcohol abuse prevention counselor to learn the safest and gentlest ways to address your loved one’s alcoholism.

12. They’re unsuccessful at quitting.

Alcoholics will often swear to never drink again, but only return to drinking a few days or even hours later. Remember, to truly fight the addiction, the alcoholic must genuinely want to change; they generally can’t do it for you, and you can’t force them to.

13. They continue their behavior even if it negatively affects their personal relationships.

An alcoholic will alienate people who truly care about them just to be able to continue drinking. In fact, they will often seek out individuals who will drink with them.

If want more information about how to tell if someone is an alcoholic or are concerned that someone you know has a problem, consult with a drug prevention counselor or other mental health professional.

See our Detroit Bail Bonds blog page to learn more about categories of crimes in Michigan, possible criminal penalties, and general information about what you can expect from court processes and bail bond processes.

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