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All about alcoholism and drinking alcohol abuse signs and symptoms of alcoholism causes of alcoholism risk factors for alcoholism effects of alcoholism fetal alcohol syndrome moderate drinking health benefits of moderate drinking alcoholism treatment alternative therapy for alcoholism treatment effects of alcoholism on women

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism is an addictive dependency on alcohol characterised by craving (a strong need to drink); loss of control (being unable to stop); physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms; and tolerance (increasing difficulty of becoming drunk). Alcoholism is a type of drug dependence. There is both physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic, progressive, and sometimes fatal disease due to the habitual use of alcohol; often described as any "harmful use" of alcohol--meaning the alcoholic continues to drink despite recurrent social, personal, physical, or legal consequences as a result of their alcohol use.

Alcoholism is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance misuse and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to its use than other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state. Alcoholism is a life-threatening problem that often ends in death, particularly through liver or kidney disease, internal bleeding, brain deterioration, alcohol poisoning, accidents and suicide. Stereotypes of alcoholics are often found in fiction and popular culture, viz. the "town drunk," or the portrayal of Russians and the Irish as alcoholics. Alcohol dependence can be harder to break and significantly more damaging than dependence on most other addictive substances. The physical symptoms when withdrawing from alcohol are seen to be equal to those experienced during withdrawal from heroin. Long term abusers of alcoholic beverages can suffer delirium tremens.

Alcoholism is a disease that is characterized by the following:

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  • Loss of control: The frequent inability to stop drinking once a person has begun.
  • Physical dependence: The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking. These symptoms are usually relieved by drinking alcohol or by taking another sedative drug.
  • Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to get "high".
  • Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes. But it has a great deal to do with a person's uncontrollable need for alcohol. This description of alcoholism helps us understand why most alcoholics can't just "use a little willpower" to stop drinking. He or she is frequently in the grip of a powerful craving for alcohol, a need that can feel as strong as the need for food or water. While some people are able to recover without help, the majority of alcoholic individuals need outside assistance to recover from their disease. With support and treatment, many individuals are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives. Many people wonder: why can some individuals use alcohol without problems, while others are utterly unable to control their drinking? Recent research has demonstrated that for many people a vulnerability to alcoholism is inherited. Yet it is important to recognize that aspects of a person's environment, such as peer pressure and the availability of alcohol, also are significant influences. Both inherited and environmental influences are called "risk factors". But risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn't mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically develop alcoholism.
  • More information on alcoholism and drinking

    What is alcoholism? - Alcoholism is an addictive dependency on alcohol characterised by craving, loss of control, physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
    What is alcohol abuse? - Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence.
    What are the signs and symptoms of alcoholism? - People who abuse alcohol may experience many of the same signs and symptoms as people who are dependent on alcohol.
    What causes alcoholism? - D2 dopamine receptor gene increases a person's chance of developing alcoholism. Usually, a variety of factors contribute to the development of a problem with alcohol.
    What're the risk factors for alcoholism? - Steady drinking over time can produce a physical dependence on alcohol. Drinking over 14 drinks a week for men or seven drinks a week for women increases the risk of developing dependence on alcohol.
    What are the effects of alcoholism? - Alcohol depresses your central nervous system by acting as a sedative. In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation, but as drinking continues, sedating or calming effects occur.
    What is fetal alcohol syndrome? - Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of birth defects caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
    What is moderate drinking? - Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. The typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man.
    What're the health benefits of moderate drinking? - Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers.
    What is alcoholism treatment? - Treatment may include detoxification (the process of safely getting alcohol out of one's system), taking doctor-prescribed medications, and individual and group counseling.
    What alternative therapy is available for alcoholism? - Acupuncture may reduce anxiety and depression, which lead some people to drink alcohol. Involving a spouse in the treatment process may increase the chances of success in treatment and in staying sober after treatment.
    Why does alcohol affect women differently? - Women are effected by alcohol more rapidly because they tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men.
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