Recognizing Early Signs of AUD In A Loved One Or Friend

Recognizing the early signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in a loved one can be challenging. Often, the signs are subtle and easily overlooked, especially in the early stages. However, early detection and intervention can significantly improve the chances of recovery for someone struggling with AUD. This blog post aims to shed light on the early signs of AUD, offering guidance on how to recognize them in a family member or friend.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Before diving into the signs, it’s essential to understand what AUD is. AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It ranges from mild to severe, including alcoholism and binge drinking, and can put the individual’s health and safety at risk.

Early Signs of AUD

1. Increased Tolerance to Alcohol

One of the first signs of AUD is an increased tolerance to alcohol. This means the individual needs to consume more alcohol to achieve the same effects they once did with less. If you notice your loved one frequently consuming larger amounts of alcohol or commenting on their increased tolerance, it could be a red flag.

2. Drinking in Secret or Alone

Drinking in secrecy or alone is a concerning behavior. Individuals may hide their drinking habits due to guilt or fear of judgment. This behavior can also indicate that the person is prioritizing alcohol over their relationships and responsibilities.

3. Changes in Social Circles

A sudden change in friends or social circles, especially if the new group drinks more heavily, can be a sign of developing AUD. This change often occurs because the individual seeks others who share or enable their drinking habits.

4. Neglecting Responsibilities

If a family member or friend starts neglecting their responsibilities at work, school, or home due to drinking, it’s a significant indicator of AUD. This could include missing deadlines, skipping classes, or failing to fulfill household duties.

5. Mood Swings and Irritability

Alcohol can significantly affect an individual’s mood. Frequent mood swings, irritability, or sudden changes in behavior, especially when not drinking, can indicate AUD. These mood changes often result from the body’s reaction to the absence of alcohol.

6. Making Excuses for Drinking

Rationalizing drinking by making excuses, such as dealing with stress or relaxing, is a common sign of AUD. If your loved one frequently justifies their drinking or becomes defensive when questioned about it, they may be struggling with AUD.

7. Physical Signs

Physical signs of AUD can include bloodshot eyes, poor hygiene, unexplained bruises or injuries, and a noticeable decline in physical health. Alcohol can also cause yellowing of the skin and eyes due to liver damage.

8. Withdrawal Symptoms

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking is a clear sign of AUD. Symptoms can include anxiety, tremors, sweating, nausea, and insomnia. In severe cases, withdrawal can lead to seizures or hallucinations.

How to Help

If you recognize any of these signs in a loved one, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and concern. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Educate Yourself: Learn more about AUD to understand what your loved one is going through.
  • Open a Dialogue: Speak to your loved one about your concerns. Ensure the conversation is non-judgmental and supportive.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking help from a healthcare provider or a mental health professional who specializes in AUD.
  • Support Their Journey: Offer your support throughout their journey to recovery. This could include accompanying them to appointments or finding support groups.


Recognizing the early signs of AUD in a loved one can be the first step towards helping them find the support and treatment they need. It’s crucial to approach the situation with understanding and compassion, remembering that AUD is a complex disorder that requires professional intervention. By staying informed and supportive, you can make a significant difference in your loved one’s path to recovery.