How to Tell If Someone Is Dying of Alcoholism?

Updated March 23, 2017

Death by alcoholism is preceded by numerous observable symptoms. The ravaging effects of alcoholism include organ failure, nerve damage, brain damage and even cancer aggravated by alcohol abuse. Information regarding these conditions can be gathered by referencing applicable police records, as well as by talking with friends and family of one who suffers from end-stage alcoholism.

Ask questions. Though a person who suffers from a heavy drinking problem is likely to be living in a state of denial, he is often willing to talk to anyone within earshot about his tragic fall from grace. Even when he is sober, he may respond candidly to open-ended questions if they are judiciously phrased.

For example, the authors of Primary Care Medicine suggest that an interviewer should encourage an alcoholic to speak openly about his drinking habits by asking, "On average, how many drinks do you have per day?"

Observe an alcoholic's physical condition. Jaundiced skin caused by alcohol-induced liver damage is a sign of irreversible cirrhosis. Nutritional deficiencies caused by heavy drinking may also result in observable damage, such as peeling skin, rotting teeth, and dry or brittle hair.

Research an alcoholic's arrest records. Many states and cities post information regarding arrests online. Newspapers also are known to record information about arrests in police blotter sections. An alcoholic's criminal history may illustrate the progression of his drinking problem by documenting a history of domestic violence, occupational turbulence or suicide attempts.

Study an alcoholic's behaviour. Body language can reveal the effects of alcoholism on a heavy drinker. Such individuals exhibit delayed reflexes and communicate with slurred speech. They also may suffer from severe amnesia or even hallucinations, causing feelings of confusion and disorientation. Excessive intake of alcohol may damage the optic nerve of an alcoholic, resulting in blurry vision that hampers his or her power to function.

Interview an alcoholic's family or close friends. Family and friends usually know secrets about a dying alcoholic's condition. Often, these people know that the alcoholic is plagued by one or more illnesses that accompany end-stage alcoholism, such as acute hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, or nerve damage caused by polyneuropathy.


Emphasise that you are seeking to provide assistance as you talk with an alcoholic's friends and family. Alcoholic-related illnesses may be reversed if attended to early.


An alcoholic's family members may be reluctuctant to talk, due to a sense of guilt or shame. Show consideration. However, do not shy away from investigating their loved one's condition.

Things You'll Need

  • Applicable police records
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About the Author

James Withers has authored in excess of 200 articles on eHow, expanding on journalistic experience acquired as a commentator for the newspaper of the University of Texas at Arlington. Withers began publishing professionally in 2007. Withers holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Arlington.