Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (Alcohol Use Disorder)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Discover the connection between viral hepatitis, alcoholism, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

The Relationship of Chronic Viral Hepatitis, Alcoholism, and Cirrhosis to Liver Cancer

The most common diseases associated with liver cancer are chronic viral hepatitis, alcoholism, and cirrhosis(scarring of the liver). Moreover, chronic viral hepatitis is common in alcoholism, and both viral hepatitis and alcoholism cause cirrhosis which usually precedes the development of cancer. Therefore, the contributions and interrelationships of alcohol abuse, viral hepatitis, and cirrhosis in the development of liver cancer are complex.

Quick GuideAlcohol Abuse Pictures Slideshow: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

Alcohol Abuse Pictures Slideshow: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

Alcohol use disorder facts

  • Alcohol abuse and dependence, now both included under the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, is a disease that is 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 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 is not directly passed 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 thought to be five stages of alcoholism, 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 a drinking problem 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 to be generally 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/5/2015

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