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Symptoms and Signs of Alcoholism

Doctor's Notes on Alcoholism

Alcoholism is continued excessive consumption of alcohol-containing drinks. Signs and symptoms include cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastritis, anemia, GI bleeding, ulcers, neuropathy, brain atrophy, cardiomyopathy, and abnormal brain functioning (confusion, hallucinations, encephalopathy, dementia). Also, behavior changes may be signs of the disease. For example, frequent falls, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, aggression, missing school or work, divorce, financial problems and many others. The person frequently denies they have the disease and refuse medical help. The disease is involved with harming others: about 40% of fatal car crashes and violent crimes (homicide, rape, assault, spouse and/or child abuse) involve alcohol consumption. Alcoholism can lead to alcohol dependence (alcohol addiction), a potentially fatal disease.

The causes of alcoholism are not clear. However, researchers suggest there is evidence for genetic and biologic predispositions for it to develop. For example, if you have close relatives that have alcoholism, it makes it 4-7 times more likely that you will develop the disease. Other research suggests that if you inherit a gene (D2 receptor), you can increase your risk for the disease. However, there are many other factors, behavior and psychological, that may play a role. For example, peer pressure, social pressures and elevated stress levels. Twice as many males become alcohol dependent.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.