Is My Friend an Alcoholic?
What Is the Definition of an Alcoholic?
The word “alcoholic” is a term for a person who has a substance use disorder relating to alcohol abuse, but you may be wondering, “is my friend an alcoholic?” Alcohol addiction is a physical dependence on alcohol that causes withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to cut back or stop drinking and the disordered thinking, causing the person to lose control over their consumption, with an unhealthy obsession and cravings for alcohol. Keep reading to learn more so you can answer the question, is my friend an alcoholic?
Signs of Alcoholism
Everybody is different and will display different signs of alcohol addiction. Still, if you are wondering, “is my friend an alcoholic?” you have likely observed some signs and symptoms that tell you they have a problem. Some of the signs of alcoholism you may want to look out for include:
- Alcohol negatively interferes in their career, school, family, or other responsibilities.
- They may be engaging in uncharacteristically risky behavior after drinking, like driving/operating machinery, having unprotected sex, fighting, swimming, etc.
- They continue to drink, even when they know it is causing serious problems in their relationship, with family, or at work.
- Drinking takes precedence for them over social functions, other people’s needs, and their own responsibilities, or they will show up already drunk or with alcohol to drink throughout the event.
- They continue to drink even when it causes financial issues.
- They have uncontrollable mood swings and irritability.
- They begin to require more alcohol to achieve the desired level of intoxication (they have an increased tolerance to alcohol).
- They cannot control how much they drink in one sitting once they get started (they cannot have “just one” drink).
- They begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking and may begin to “need” alcohol to feel normal during the day, drinking in the morning or sneaking drinks.
- They are constantly thinking about or planning for their next drink.
If these signs sound familiar, it may be time for your friend to enter a professional detox and rehabilitation program.
Stages of Alcoholism
The stages of alcoholism are as follows:
In early-stage alcohol addiction, your friend may be an occasional binge drinker, just “having a few” to take the edge off a stressful day. This can look like a college student experimenting with alcohol, somebody going through a bottle of wine or two at a dinner party, or a co-worker who buys a case of beer to drink on a Friday night after a busy week.
Binge drinking is characterized by having approximately four drinks in two hours for women, or five drinks in two hours for men, resulting in high blood alcohol content and debilitating physical and mental side effects.
Chronic alcoholism is characterized by years of daily drinking, with severe effects on the body and consequences to their lifestyle beginning to show up. Heavy drinking—seven drinks per week for women or fourteen drinks per week for men—will cause the body to become dependent on alcohol, eventually causing a psychological addiction to form.
Some people are also genetically predisposed to continue to drink heavily, and others have been environmentally conditioned to do so. Children of alcoholics have a much higher likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder themselves. People with mental health issues may also turn to alcohol to mask symptoms of mental illness, and emotional or psychological attachments to drinking (like relying on drinking to be able to “have fun”) can cause a person to develop an alcohol use disorder.
If your friend has end-stage alcoholism, they will experience serious withdrawal symptoms when they try to cut back or stop drinking, and they require professional medical care when they decide to quit.
A person in end-stage alcoholism may be experiencing negative consequences to their health, career, relationships, or finances. Still, there are also “high functioning alcoholics” who may appear to have it all together, successfully hiding their addiction until their issues become irreparable.
Heavy alcohol abuse may lead to issues like:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Depression/intentional self-harm
- Nerve damage
- High blood pressure
- Infectious diseases
- High risk of falling/injuries
How to Help an Alcoholic
Detoxing at home or going “cold turkey” from drinking is never a good idea, as the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can become deadly if they are not taken care of by medical professionals. Detoxing from alcohol is serious. Even if your friend has only been drinking for a short period, withdrawal can be unpleasant enough to cause them to be unsuccessful in quitting alcohol and relapse.
There are underlying causes of addiction that need to be treated, and physical dependence. A professional alcohol detox and rehabilitation program is the best way for a person with an addiction to stop use and move on with their lives, with the addiction under control.
The best ways to help a person who is addicted to alcohol and get them the help they need include:
- Educate yourself before speaking with them on enablement, triggers, psychological changes caused by addiction, the recovery process, and the health issues that alcohol can cause in the body.
- Avoid enabling behaviors, such as covering up or ignoring problematic behavior, buying them alcohol, interfering with authority figures on their behalf, taking over their responsibilities, blaming others for their behavior, or drinking with them.
- Speak when emotions are neutral and when everybody is sober and ready to talk. Setting up a meeting time and letting them know it is essential that they really hear your concerns will help with this.
- Help them with research on detox and rehab facilities, including contacting the facilities yourself if they are not up to it, and helping them choose a program that will best suit their unique needs and life.
- Make changes to your interactions and within the home that will support a sober lifestyle, such as avoiding social gatherings that involve drinking or where liquor will be present and finding fun sober activities to do that you and your friend enjoy doing. Some examples include playing sports or working out, going to the movies, playing video games, family-friendly community gatherings, spending time outdoors in nature, etc.
- Help them remove addictive substances from their home, and help them prepare for the long-term setbacks that addiction may have contributed to, like financial trouble, health problems, and relationship issues.
- Help them make an actionable plan in case relapse occurs.
- If you are a caregiver or providing emotional support to your friend, ensure that you also have somebody to talk to, like a counselor, therapist, or peer support group, to ensure you are also being taken care of and not overwhelmed with responsibility.
- Keep your expectations reasonable to avoid disappointment.
- Set firm boundaries so you do not put yourself at risk of doing things you are not comfortable with.
- Do not take on more than you can handle, and ensure you keep limits clear as far as what you are and are not willing to do. Otherwise, resentment can build.
- Speak with other loved ones and friends to create a sizeable sober support group for the addicted person, so they have many places to turn when they need extra support.
- Encourage their attendance at peer support groups and therapy, as well as other recovery and sober gatherings. You may even want to attend as well as support.
It can be frustrating and scary to see somebody you care about struggling with an alcohol use disorder. If you do not know where to turn or how to get started, contact us at Muse Treatment, and we can guide you through our intake process for our safe detox and rehab programs, as well as provide you with resources to help guide you and your friend through this difficult time.
We offer inpatient and outpatient rehab programs that can be customized to suit your friend’s needs, so whether they are just beginning to walk the road to alcoholism or have been a heavy drinker for years, there is help for them with Muse Treatment. We will ensure they are safe and are not suffering in our medically assisted treatment (MAT) detox program. Then we will work with them through counseling, therapy, education, life skills training, and medical care in rehab to help them gain a new mindset. This process will help put drinking in the past as patients move forward with their life with all the sobriety skills they will need for the future, including a long-term continued connection to our resources and our sober community.
We are here for you and your friend, and we are happy to provide all the information you need so you do not have to go through this challenging time on your own. Contact Muse Treatment at (800) 426-1818 today if you keep asking, is my friend an alcoholic?