Alcohol Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms

At Mount Regis Center, we offer an intensive, evidence based approach to alcohol use disorder treatment. We offer a variety of therapeutic interventions that help our clients build a strong foundation for long-term recovery.

Understanding Alcohol

Learn about alcohol addiction and substance use disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder is defined as using alcohol at an amount that causes distress or harm to the individual or decreases inhibitions to the point that the individual is placing themselves or others in danger. Although some people who abuse alcohol do not become dependent, they often neglect their responsibilities at work, school or in other areas. The term alcoholism is used to refer to a more serious type of the disorder. It includes cravings for alcohol, loss of control over drinking behavior, physical dependence such that if the individual stops using alcohol they will experience withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance or the need for an increased amount of alcohol to achieve the desired effects. Alcohol Use Disorder is considered a chronic problem. At Mount Regis we are here to help.


Alcohol addiction statistics

Alcohol use disorder is relatively common in the U.S.  Among 12-17 year olds the 12 month prevalence rate is estimated at approximately 4.6% while for those over the age of 18 it has been estimated at approximately 8.5%. Prevalence rates are higher in the U.S. for men (12.4%) than for women (4.9%).  Prevalence rates decrease in middle age and decrease to their lowest rates among individuals 65 years and older (1.5%).

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for alcohol addiction

Genetic: It has long been noted that alcohol use runs in families such that individuals with a first degree relative with an alcohol use disorder has a greater likelihood of developing the disorder compared to their peers. Additionally, the interaction of numerous genes are believed to contribute to the development of the disorder

Brain Structures: Certain structures that associated with controlling craving for alcohol and other substances have been found to be smaller in individuals with alcohol use disorders compared with others

Brain Chemistry: There is some research that suggests that individuals with alcohol related problems have high levels of circulating serotonin in the brain, a chemical responsible for neural communication, is related to lower levels of tolerance to alcohol.  This means that these individuals have a shorter time until they develop the need to increase the amount of alcohol they drink to achieve the desired effect.

Temperament: Individuals with alcohol use disorders have been shown to be more likely to display a lack of inhibition, believed to be an inherited temperamental quality, than others.  It has been suggested that this quality causes individuals to lack the physiological warning system that suggests when they’ve had enough to drink and to stop

Life Stressors: One effect of alcohol is that is has a numbing effect on emotions. Some people experience a huge number of life stressors which they are unable to control or just become so overwhelmed by negative emotions they stop trying to do anything. Alcohol may be used in this type of situation to numb the negative emotions they feel are crushing them.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder include:

  • Mood/Psychological symptoms:
    • The person uses alcohol for longer periods of time or in greater amounts than they intended
    • The individual has the desire to cut down on alcohol use but unable to do so
    • The person spends a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from alcohol
    • The person fails to fulfill major role obligations due to alcohol use
    • The individual recognizes that alcohol use is leading to or worsening psychological or mood related problems but continue to use anyway
    • Alcohol use required in order to relax, feel happy, sleep, cope with difficulties or just feel “normal”
  • Behavioral symptoms:
    • The person no longer takes part in important activities due to alcohol use
    • Knowingly uses alcohol repeatedly in dangerous situations
    • Drinking in secret to avoid negative judgments of others
  • Social symptoms:
    • Interpersonal problems due to alcohol use but the person still refuses to cut down
    • Fights or anger outbursts with no obvious trigger related to alcohol use
    • Social avoidance of individual who don’t also use alcohol
  • Physical symptoms:
    • Alcohol cravings
    • The individual recognizes that alcohol use is leading to or worsening physical problems but continue to use anyway
    • Tolerance
      • Need for significantly larger amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated or to achieve the desired sensations
      • Significantly decreased effect from the same amount of alcohol used
  • Withdrawal
    • Alcohol used to avoid withdrawal symptoms
    • Negative physical or psychological effects result following cessation of alcohol use


Effects of alcohol addiction

  • Violence and Physical Abuse of Loved Ones
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor judgment and decision making ability
  • Lack of behavioral Inhibition leading to behaviors the person would not ordinarily engage in
  • Irritability
  • Memory Loss
  • Poor coordination
  • Decrease in social anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Improved mood
  • Liver damage with long term use
  • Divorce
  • Loss of relationships
  • Inability to sleep through the night leading to feeling tired the next day
  • Decreased productivity at school and work
  • Job Loss
  • Financial Problems
  • Accidental
  • Child neglect and abuse
  • Malnutrition
  • Friendships dwindle until social network includes only others who are also using alcohol
  • Sexual promiscuity and risky sexual behavior leading to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sexual problems –decreased interest in sex and sexual impotence in men
  • Personality changes
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor hygiene
  • Long term effects can include neurological impairment, cardiovascular events,
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat esophagus, liver, colon, and breast
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination and inability to fulfill responsibilities
  • Poor coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Self-harm
  • Vitamin deficiencies especially deficiency of vitamin B1
  • Disorientation
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I could never say enough great things about Mount Regis Center! From admissions to nursing to the phenomenal clinical team, this is the place to go if you want to get better and learn how to stay clean! They saved my life and I will be forever grateful.

– Former Patient
Marks of Quality Care
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • The Jason Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs