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.

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

Quick GuideAlcohol Abuse: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

Alcohol Abuse: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

How can you tell if someone has a drinking problem?

Signs of a drinking problem include behaviors like drinking for the purpose of getting drunk, drinking alone or keeping it secret, drinking to escape problems, hiding alcohol in odd places, getting irritated when you are unable to obtain alcohol to drink, and having problems at work, school, home, or legally as a result of your drinking. Other warning signs of alcohol use disorder include losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, having blackouts because of heavy drinking, and getting annoyed when loved ones say you may have a drinking problem. Behaviors that may indicate that a person is suffering from alcoholism include being able to drink more and more alcohol, trouble stopping once you start drinking, powerful urges to drink, and having withdrawal symptoms like nervousness, nausea, shaking, or having cold sweats, and even hallucinations when you don't have a drink.

Can an alcoholic just cut back or stop drinking?

While some people with alcohol use disorder can cut back or stop drinking without help, most are only able to do so temporarily unless they get treatment. Individuals who consume alcohol in lower amounts and tend to cope with problems more directly are more likely to be successful in their efforts to cut back or stop drinking without the benefit of treatment.

Is there a safe level of drinking?

Recent research describes potential health benefits of consuming alcohol, including decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Given that, it is fair to say that low intake, along the lines of 4-8 ounces of wine per day, is likely safe.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/5/2015

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