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Alcoholism

Alcoholism Overview

Alcohol problems vary in severity from mild to life threatening and affect the individual, the person's family, and society in numerous adverse ways. Despite all of the focus on illegal drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol remains the number one drug problem in the United States. Nearly 18 million adults in the U.S. are dependent on alcohol or have other alcohol-related problems.

In teenagers, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug, and 14% of teens have been intoxicated.

Withdrawal, for those physically dependent on alcohol, is much more dangerous than withdrawal from heroin or other narcotic drugs.

  • Alcohol abuse refers to excessive or problematic use with one or more of the following:
    • Failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home
    • Recurrent use in situations where it is hazardous (such as driving a car or operating machinery)
    • Legal problems
    • Continued use of alcohol despite having medical, social, family, or interpersonal problems caused by or worsened by drinking
  • Alcohol dependence refers to a more serious disorder and involves excessive or maladaptive use leading to three or more of the following:
    • Tolerance (need for more to achieve the desired effect, or achieving the effect with greater amounts of alcohol)
    • Withdrawal symptoms following a reduction or cessation of drinking (such as sweating, rapid pulse, tremors, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, agitation, shaking, anxiety, or seizures) or using alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms (for example, early morning drinking or drinking throughout the day)
    • Drinking more alcohol or drinking over a longer period of time than intended (loss of control)
    • Inability to cut down or stop
    • Spending a great deal of time drinking or recovering from its effects
    • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities
    • Continuing to drink despite knowing alcohol use has caused or worsened problems
    • Binge drinking (consuming several drinks over a short period of time)

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