Alcohol abuse and dependence, now both included under the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder, is a disease characterized by the sufferer having a pattern of drinking
excessively despite the negative effects of alcohol on the individual’s work, medical, legal, educational, and/or social life. It may involve a destructive pattern of
alcohol use that includes a number of symptoms, including tolerance to or withdrawal from the substance, using more alcohol and/or for a longer time than planned, and
trouble reducing its use.
Alcohol abuse, on the less severe end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum, affects about 10% of women and 20% of men in the United States, most beginning by their
mid-teens. Signs of alcohol intoxication include the smell of alcohol on the breath or skin, glazed or bloodshot eyes, the person being unusually passive or
argumentative, and/or a deterioration in the person’s judgment, appearance, or hygiene. Almost 2,000 people under 21 years of age die each year in car crashes in which
underage drinking is involved. Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all violent deaths involving teens. Alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, can affect teens,
women, men, and the elderly quite differently. Risk factors for developing a drinking problem include low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or another mood problem, as
well as having parents with alcoholism.
Alcohol use disorder has no one single cause and does not directly pass from one generation to another genetically. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of
genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. There is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has an alcohol-use disorder. Therefore, health care
professionals diagnose these disorders by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental health information. There are five stages of alcoholism, which was
formerly called the more severe end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum. There are numerous individual treatments for alcoholism, including medical stabilization
(detox), individual and group counseling, support groups, residential treatment, medications, drug testing, and/or relapse-prevention programs.
Some signs of problem drinking include drinking alone, to escape problems, or for the sole purpose of getting drunk; hiding alcohol in odd places; getting irritated
and/or craving alcohol when you are unable to obtain alcohol to drink; and having problems because of your drinking. While some people with more severe alcohol use
disorder (formerly alcoholism or alcohol dependence) can cut back or stop drinking without help, most are only able to do so temporarily unless they get treatment.
There is no amount of alcohol intake that has been proven safe during pregnancy.
The long-term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be devastating and even life-threatening, negatively affecting virtually every organ system.
Codependence is the tendency to interact with another person in an excessively passive or caretaking manner that negatively affects the quality of the codependent
individual’s life. Adequate supervision and clear communication by parents about the negative effects of alcohol and about parental expectations regarding alcohol and
other drug use can significantly decrease alcohol use in teens. With treatment, about 70% of people with alcoholism are able to decrease the number of days they
consume alcohol and improve their overall health status within six months.
Alcohol abuse, now included in the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, is a disease. While many have described this disorder as dipsomania, the latter term more
accurately describes the intense craving that can be a symptom of alcohol use disorder. A maladaptive pattern of drinking alcohol that results in negative work,
medical, legal, educational, and/or social effects on a person’s life characterizes the disorder. The individual who abuses this substance tends to continue to use it
despite such consequences. Effects of alcohol use disorder on families can include increased domestic abuse/domestic violence. The effects that parental alcoholism can
have on children can be significantly detrimental in other ways as well. For example, the sons and daughters of alcoholics seem to be at higher risk for experiencing
feelings that are more negative, stress, and alienation as well as aggression. There are a multitude of negative psychological effects of alcohol use disorder,
including depression and antisocial behaviors.
Statistics about less severe alcohol use disorder (alcohol abuse) in the Unites States include its afflicting about 10% of women and 20% of men. Other alcohol abuse
facts and statistics include the following:
Most people who develop severe alcohol use disorder (alcohol dependence/addiction) do so between 18 and 25 years of age. Symptoms tend to alternate between periods of
alcohol abuse and abstinence (relapse and remission) over time. The majority of individuals who abuse alcohol never go on to develop severe alcohol use disorder,
formerly referred to as alcohol dependence. Alcohol-use statistics by country indicate that among European countries, Mediterranean countries have the highest rate of
abstinence and that wine-producing countries tend to have the highest rates of alcohol consumption. In many European countries, beer tends to be the alcoholic beverage
of choice by teenagers, followed by liquor over wine.