Alcohol Addiction: Signs, Withdrawal, and Treatment

Learn what alcohol use disorder is and how to find alcohol addiction treatment if you or someone you love needs help.

Alcohol Use Disorder & Treatment

Learn more about alcohol addiction and how to find effective treatment in the New England region.

Alcohol Misuse Overview

While its use is widely accepted by society, alcohol remains one of the most misused and problematic substances nationally and globally. Alcohol misuse is a public health concern associated with numerous problems both for the drinker and for society at large.

Alcohol misuse is also attributed to early mortality; the World Health Organization estimates that harmful alcohol use contributes to more than 3 million deaths globally each year.1

Did you know most health insurance plans cover alcohol addiction treatment?
young man troubled with addiction

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use moves into the realm of alcohol addiction, another term for alcohol use disorder, at the point that a person’s drinking goes so far out of their control that they can no longer limit their intake despite knowing that alcohol is causing, or will inevitably cause, serious harm to one or more key areas of their life (health, relationships, career, etc.).2

Alcohol use disorder is considered a brain disease; and continued alcohol misuse leads to long-term changes in the brain that results in a person prioritizing alcohol over their own well-being. These changes may be very long-lasting and often lead to relapse after a period of sobriety.2

people sitting in group therapy discussing alcohol misuse

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Signs of Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol is legal and it may be challenging to know when someone’s alcohol use has gone past the point of responsible use and into the territory of misuse. The signs of alcohol misuse may be physical or behavioral and may include effects such as:4,5,6

  • Memory loss.
  • Blackouts.
  • Consistent smell of alcohol on the breath.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Staggering gait.
  • Tremors.
  • Drinking in the morning to relieve hangovers.
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times.
  • Becoming isolated and/or having strained social relationships.
  • Changes in friends/social groups.
  • Frequent tardiness or absence at school or work.
  • Mood changes.
  • New or worsened anxiety or depression.
  • Worsening of other mental health problems.
  • Violent behavior toward self or others.
  • Alcohol-related legal problems.

The above are some of the signs that a person misusing alcohol may exhibit; however, they are not necessarily indicative of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Doctors use specific clinical criteria to diagnose alcohol addiction, or AUD.

Alcohol Use Disorder Criteria

Doctors and mental health professionals use a set of 11 criteria to diagnose an individual with alcohol use disorder. Should someone meet at least two, they likely have some degree of AUD, which can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. These criteria are:7

  • Compulsive use of alcohol despite negative health (physical or psychological) consequences that result from that use or have been worsened by use.
  • Compulsive use despite social or relationship problems caused or made worse by use.
  • Failure to fulfill personal, professional, or academic obligations as a result of drinking.
  • Drinking more or for longer than intended.
  • Ongoing desire to cut down on or quit alcohol and/or repeated unsuccessful attempts to do so.
  • Large amount of time and effort is spent in finding, using, and recovering from alcohol.
  • Important activities and hobbies are abandoned as drinking takes priority.
  • Use of alcohol in scenarios that are physically hazardous (such as prior to/while driving).
  • Cravings for alcohol.
  • Tolerance (needing to drink more to feel intoxicated and/or not feeling as intoxicated with the same amount).
  • Withdrawal, manifested by either: Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not drinking or drinking or taking a sedative to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol

Not only do the brain changes that occur as a result of addiction make it extremely challenging for someone with an alcohol addiction to quit drinking, but the physical withdrawal symptoms that may arise can make it potentially dangerous to do so.8

Abrupt withdrawal from the chronic, long-term misuse of alcohol can result in dangerous and possibly deadly withdrawal seizures.8

The course of alcohol withdrawal varies tremendously from one person to another. Some people have more serious symptoms such as seizures, while others have only a few mild symptoms.8

The severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms depends on numerous factors. For example, having a history of severe withdrawal or having been through withdrawal multiple times may put you more at risk of serious outcomes.8

The difficulty of predicting just who will develop serious or life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms underscores the importance of professional medical treatment during acute withdrawal.

Doctor hold patient's hands

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

When someone who has a physiological dependence on alcohol cuts back on drinking significantly or abstains from alcohol completely, they will go into a state of withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to life-threatening and may include:7,8

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Tremors.
  • Sweating.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, or tactile).
  • Seizures.
woman sitting on ground against wall suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol Detox and Treatment for Addiction

Many people find that professional treatment helps them recover from alcohol use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends that treatment for alcohol dependence begin with supervised medical detox due to the risks associated with the alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Alcohol use disorder treatment may involve any or all of the below levels of care:

wood table with chairs in front of a check in desk at rehab

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at AdCare

AdCare has multiple locations across the New England area and offers several levels of addiction treatment. Patient care is customized to each person and is adjusted as needed throughout treatment.

Highly experienced addiction treatment professionals provide compassionate care and evidence-based treatment. To learn more about attending alcohol rehab in Rhode Island or alcohol rehab in Massachusetts, or to start the admissions process, contact an admissions navigator now.

adcare hospital facility

Using Insurance for Addiction Treatment

Most insurance plans are required to offer some form of coverage for alcohol rehab. Call our admissions navigators at to learn how to use health insurance for addiction treatment and have your benefits verified.

You can also complete our to check your coverage for alcohol use disorder treatment.

Reach out to us now to learn more about our alcohol rehab programming and to get started on a path toward recovery today.

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Alcohol Abuse Information & Statistics

Nearly 29 million adults each year meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.Many others may not meet criteria for AUD but misuse alcohol in harmful ways.

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