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Alcoholism Overview

Alcoholism Overview

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism occurs when the consumption of alcoholic beverages creates significant physical, mental, and emotional problems. In most cases, alcoholism will create consequences in social and family relationships or career difficulties.

Causes of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a category of drug dependency. Alcoholism has two facets–both the physical dependence on alcohol and the psychological addiction.

Alcoholism generally occurs in two varieties, including addiction and alcohol abuse. Those who have become addicted to alcohol generally invest high levels of time, thought and money obtaining and drinking alcohol.

Physical addiction to alcohol involves:

  • Tolerance to alcohol, leading to higher amounts of alcohol becoming necessary to achieve “buzz” or inebriation.
  • Alcohol-induced sickness or physical conditions.
  • Lapses in memory (known as “blackouts”) during periods of drinking.
  • The onset of withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use ceases.

The most serious alcohol consumption generally includes “binge drinking” episodes where alcohol is consumed for lengthy periods of time in high amounts. Binge drinking can lead to a host of dangerous physical and psychological side effects. Many alcohol dependent individuals find they cannot control their addictions as time progresses. Unfortunately, there is simply no way for binge drinkers to know how much control they will be able to maintain while drinking.

Researchers have not been able to pinpoint a single common cause of alcoholism. However, most alcohol addiction experts agree that several factors may contribute to the development of alcoholism, including close family members who struggle with alcoholism. While some researchers have suggested that genetics may heighten the risk of alcoholism, no genes have been pinpointed. Contributing factors of alcoholism can include chemical imbalances, lack of coping skills, social pressures, and self-medication of traumatic, mood or depressive disorders.

Psychological factors of alcoholism may include:

  • Attempts to calm anxiety.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Depression.
  • Low self-confidence.

Social factors of alcoholism can include:

  • Ease of access to alcoholic beverages.
  • Pressure to drink at social events.
  • Society’s attitudes towards alcohol.
  • Stressful events or situations.

The epidemic of alcohol addiction and secondary problems related to drinking is on the rise. In fact, recent research shows that millions of Americans struggle with alcohol abuse, with 15% of those across the country qualifying as “problem drinkers.” Alcoholism has become widespread, with estimates of 5% to 10% of male drinkers becoming addicted to alcohol, alongside 3% to 5% of female drinkers meeting the criteria for alcoholism.

Prevention of Alcoholism & Problem Drinking

Education can make a difference in alcohol abuse and alcoholism prevention. Medical advice from physicians can positively impact the rate of alcohol abuse and dependency, as well. Throughout the U.S., alcoholism needs more resources, better management and more effective and widespread treatment.

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a single drink for women and two daily drinks for men should not be exceeded. “One drink” is less alcohol than often assumed by many–in fact, a single drink is a 5-oz. quantity of wine, a 12-oz. measure of beer, or liquor of any kind that measures 1 1/2 oz.



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