Alcoholism: Physical dependence on alcohol to the extent that stopping alcohol use would bring on withdrawal symptoms. In popular and therapeutic parlance, the term may also be used to refer to ingrained drinking habits that cause health or social problems. Treatment requires first ending the physical dependence and then making lifestyle changes that help the individual avoid relapse. In some cases, medication and hospitalization are necessary. Alcohol dependence can have many serious effects on the brain, liver, and other organs of the body, some of which can lead to death.
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Last Editorial Review: 3/19/2012