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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Understanding Alcohol Abuse -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse?

The following symptoms are associated with alcohol abuse:

  • Temporary blackouts or memory loss.
  • Recurrent arguments or fights with family members or friends as well as irritability, depression, or mood swings.
  • Continuing use of alcohol to relax, to cheer up, to sleep, to deal with problems, or to feel "normal."
  • Headache, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, or other unpleasant symptoms when you stop drinking.
  • Flushed skin and broken capillaries on the face; a husky voice; trembling hands; bloody or black/tarry stools or vomiting blood; chronic diarrhea; and drinking alone, in the mornings, or in secret; these symptoms are specifically associated with alcoholism.

Keep in mind that alcohol abuse is different from alcohol dependence.

Understanding Alcohol Abuse

Find out more about alcohol abuse:






  • With abuse, a person uses alcohol in excess but may not have regular cravings, a need to use daily, or withdrawal symptoms during sudden stoppage. The person may often have heavy alcohol binge episodes separated by periods of not drinking.
  • If a person is dependent on alcohol, he or she needs to drink regularly or even daily and drink more and more to get the same effects. The person also experiences withdrawal symptoms if he or she stops drinking and wants to quit drinking alcohol but can't.

Call Your Doctor About Alcohol Dependence If:

  • You have any of the symptoms listed in the description section and are unable to stop drinking on your own. You need medical intervention to treat alcoholism. You may also be susceptible to ailments such as alcoholic hepatitis, ulcers, cirrhosis, and heart disease.
  • You drink regularly and experience chronic or periodic depression. You may be at risk of suicide.
  • You have tried to stop drinking and experienced withdrawal symptoms such as headache, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, or delirium tremens (DTs). You need medical attention by a doctor or a treatment center.

Ask yourself, "Do I have a problem?"

  • C -- You tried but failed to Cut down your drinking
  • A -- You are Annoyed by criticism from others about drinking
  • G -- You feel Guilt about consequences of drinking (such as loss of job or relationship)
  • E -- You've needed a drink or Eye-opener to steady your nerves or treat a hangover

If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you could have a problem with alcohol.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 01, 2015

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