Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Program Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking is a behavior that is woven into many societies and even into our professional career.  Flight attendants are use to getting to our overnight destination, getting out of our uniform, and heading to the closest alcohol-serving establishment.  As flight attendants, having an adult refreshment is something we deserve and have earned after a long day accommodating  everyone else's needs.  But, it really can become difficult to see when our drinking just might have crossed the line from social or moderate drinking to problem drinking.  If you consume alcohol simply to feel good, or avoid feeling bad, then your drinking could become problematic.

Drinking problems are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health.  People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems.  Also, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.

If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem!

Substance-abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence).  Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking.  However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.

Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

  • Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home or work because of your drinking. For example: performing poorly at work, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments, because you're hung over.
  • Using alcohol in situations where it's physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor's orders.
  • Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking.  Examples include getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.
  • Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships.  Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your partner will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
  • Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress.  Getting drunk after stressful days, for example, or reaching for a bottle following arguments with your spouse or boss.

Not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor.  Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly after a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss.  Other times, it gradually creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases.  If you're a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are even greater.


Do you drink more and more to get buzzed or feel relaxed?  Are you able to drink more than others without getting drunk?  Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects.  These are the warning signs of tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism.


When you are drinking heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it's taken away.  Some of these symptoms are anxiety or jumpiness, trembling or shakiness, sweating, nausea or vomiting, headaches, fatigue, irritability, and depression.  In severe cases, withdrawal can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation.  These symptoms can be dangerous, so please talk to your doctor!

Other Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

  • You have often drank more alcohol than you wanted to, longer than you intended, even despite promising to yourself that you would stop after one or two drinks.
  • You want to quit, you have really tried, but you have been unsuccessful in every attempt.
  • You have an excuse for every drunk, from I was tired, I did not eat, my hormones are not agreeing with the alcohol, I am on new medication, I did not sleep the night before, my partner angered me, only so that your behavior with alcohol will be justified.
  • Alcohol has taken a great deal of your energy.  Not only are you recovering from its effects, but you have very few interests or social involvements that don't revolve around drinking.
  • You continue to drink, even though you know it is causing problems, at work, in your personal life, and you are emotionally drained.

But wait: I can stop drinking anytime I want to.  Maybe you can, but more likely, you can't!

Please call your FADAP peer, or if you do not have a FADAP peer, Deborah McCormick - FADAP Coordinator (Phone: 401-225-1459) for a confidential discussion on what would be the best path for you to get professional help.


Phone: 855-33-FADAP                    Direct Line: 202-355-6337