Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can't consistently predict how much you'll drink, how long you'll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.
It's possible to have a problem with alcohol, even when it has not progressed to the point of alcoholism. Problem drinking means you drink too much at times, causing repeated problems in your life, although you're not completely dependent on alcohol.
Binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks in a row, or a female downs at least four drinks in a row — can lead to the same health risks and social problems associated with alcoholism. The more you drink, the greater the risks. Binge drinking, which often occurs with teenagers and young adults, may lead to faster development of alcoholism.
If you have alcoholism or you have a problem with alcohol, you may not be able to cut back or quit without help. Denying that you have a problem is usually part of alcoholism and other types of excessive drinking.
Aug. 09, 2012
- Saitz R, et al. Screening for unhealthy use of alcohol and other drugs. http://www.uptodate.com/ index. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Hoffman RS, et al. Management of moderate and severe alcohol withdrawal syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Alcohol and public health: Frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm. Accessed March 29, 2010.
- Gold MS, et al. Psychosocial treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Esser MB, et al. Binge drinking intensity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2012;42:625.
- Johnson BA, et al. Pharmacotherapy for alcohol abuse and dependence. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed June 2, 20127.
- Substance-related disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Harmful interactions: Mixing alcohol with medicines. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets. Accessed June 3, 2012.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 14, 2012.
- Overview of alcohol consumption. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Underage drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Alcohol use disorders. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Fetal alcohol exposure. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/fetal-alcohol-exposure. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol's impact on your health. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf. Accessed June 2, 2012.
- College drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking. June 2, 2012.
- Breast cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/DetailedGuide/breast-cancer-risk-factors. Accessed June 12, 2012.
- Public policy statement on the definition of alcoholism. American Society of Addiction Medicine. http://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2011/12/15/the-definition-of-alcoholism-(ncadd-asam). Accessed June 25, 2012.
- Schneekloth TD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 23, 2012.
- Thiamin. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional_disorders/vitamin_deficiency_dependency_and_toxicity/thiamin.html. Accessed August 1, 2012.