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

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

Is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant?

Babies who are born to mothers who are heavy drinkers are more at risk for being born with significant medical, developmental, behavioral, and emotional problems, including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). However, many babies whose mothers consumed even minimal amounts of alcohol during pregnancy have been born with such problems. Therefore, there is no amount of alcohol intake that has been proven to be safe during pregnancy.

How can someone find more information or get help or support to treat alcohol use disorder?

  • Al-Anon-Alateen: 888-4AL-ANON
  • Alcoholics Anonymous World Services: 212-870-3400
  • American Council on Alcoholism treatment referral line: 800-527-5344
  • Codependents Anonymous: http://www.coda.org
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving: 800-GET-MADD
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: 800-NCA-CALL
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: 301-443-3860
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcoholism and Drug Information: 800-729-6686
  • National Resource Center: 866-870-4979

What are the long-term physical and psychological effects of alcohol use disorder?

The long-term effects of alcohol use disorder can be devastating and even life-threatening. Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect virtually every organ system. Specific examples of alcohol-use disorder effects on the body include everything from general effects like poor coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other forms of poor nutrition, cardiovascular effects like hypertension and irregular heartbeat, reproductive effects like impotence and irregular menses, as well as gastrointestinal problems like jaundice, cirrhosis of the liver, and pancreatitis. Alcohol-use disorder complications that involve the brain include, but are by no means limited to, strokes, confusion, and amnesia.

Approximately 10%-15% of people with alcoholism tend to commit suicide. Intoxication is associated with suicide attempts using more lethal methods, and positive blood-alcohol levels are often found in people who complete suicide. Men who have lost their spouses within the year are at highest risk of suicide.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/5/2015

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