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Alcohol abuse is the desire for alcohol even when there are alcohol-related work, legal, health, and family problems. Alcohol abuse can progress to alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Alcoholism is a condition in which a person becomes physically dependent on the effects of alcohol and drinks to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism include:

  • Genes
  • Brain chemicals that may be different
  • Social pressure
  • Emotional stress
  • Pain
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Problem drinking behaviors learned from family and friends

It is estimated that nearly 17.6 million people in the United States abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. More men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. Alcohol problems are highest among young adults, age 18 to 29, and lowest among adults age 65 and older.

Risks Associated With Alcoholism

Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism

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Alcoholism can increase your risk of the following:

What are the risk factors for alcoholism?
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
How is alcoholism diagnosed?
What are the treatments for alcoholism?
Are there screening tests for alcoholism?
How can I reduce my risk of alcoholism?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with alcoholism?
Where can I get more information about alcoholism?

References:

Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated October 5, 2012. Accessed November 21, 2012.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

Grant BF, Dawson DA, Stinson FS, Chou SP, Dufour MC, Pickering RP. The 12-month prevalence and trends in DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence, United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002. Drug Alcohol Dependence. 2004;74:223-234. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh29-2/79-93.htm . Accessed November 21, 2012.

Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2008.

3/5/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Tramacere I, Scotti L, et al. Alcohol drinking and pancreatic cancer risk: a meta-analysis of the dose-risk relation. Int J Cancer. 2010;126(6):1474-1486.



Last reviewed February 2014 by Peter J. Lucas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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