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- Patient Comments: Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Treatments
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- Alcohol use disorder facts
- What is alcohol abuse?
- What is alcoholism?
- What differentiates alcohol abuse from alcoholism?
- What are risk factors for alcoholism?
- What causes alcoholism? Is alcoholism hereditary?
- What are alcohol use disorder symptoms and signs in teenagers, women, men, and the elderly?
- How do physicians diagnose alcohol use disorder?
- What are the stages of alcohol use disorder?
- What is the treatment for alcohol use disorder?
- What medications treat alcohol use disorder?
- How can you tell if someone has a drinking problem?
- Can an alcoholic just cut back or stop drinking?
- Is there a safe level of drinking?
- Is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant?
- How can someone find more information or get help or support to treat alcohol use disorder?
- What are the long-term physical and psychological effects of alcohol use disorder?
- What is codependency, and what is the treatment for codependency?
- Is it possible to prevent alcohol use disorder?
- What is the prognosis of alcohol use disorder?
Quick GuideAlcohol Abuse: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism formerly called alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction, is the more severe end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum. It is a destructive pattern of alcohol use that includes tolerance to or withdrawal from the substance, using more alcohol or using it for longer than planned, and trouble reducing its use or inability to use it in moderation. Other potential symptoms include spending an inordinate amount of time getting, using, or recovering from the use of alcohol, compromised functioning, and/or continuing to use alcohol despite an awareness of the detrimental effects it is having on one's life.
Alcoholism is appropriately considered a disease rather than a weakness of character or chosen pattern of bad behavior. It is the third most common mental illness, affecting more than 14 million people in the United States. Other facts and statistics about alcohol dependence include its pattern of afflicting about 4% of women and 10% of men. It costs more than $165 billion per year in lower productivity, early death, and costs for treatment.
What differentiates alcohol abuse from alcoholism?
While both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are included in the alcohol use disorder diagnosis and involve engaging in maladaptive behaviors in the use of alcohol, abuse of this substance does not include the person having withdrawal symptoms or needing more and more amounts to achieve intoxication (tolerance) unless the person has developed alcoholism.
What are risk factors for alcoholism?
Risk factors for developing a drinking problem include depression, anxiety, or another mood problem in the individual, as well as having parents with alcoholism. Low self-esteem and feeling out of place are other risk factors for developing alcohol dependence. In women, antisocial behaviors and impulsivity are associated with the development of severe alcohol use disorder. Both men and women are more likely to develop alcoholism if they have a childhood history of being physically or sexually abused. Children and teens who have their first drink of alcohol between 11 and 14 years of age are more at risk for developing a drinking problem than those who do so when either younger or older.