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Understanding Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Abuse

A woman dependent on alcohol

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Alcohol dependence is a serious disease.

Alcohol dependence is also called alcoholism.

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a physical condition.

People who are dependent on alcohol:

Feel an uncontrollable need, or craving to drink alcohol

Cannot control how much alcohol they drink

Become ill when they stop drinking

Need to drink greater amounts of alcohol over time to feel its effects

Alcohol abuse is also a serious health concern.

People who abuse alcohol are not physically dependent on it, but

  • They have a pattern of drinking so much alcohol that they often experience trouble at work, home or in their social lives.

Alcohol dependence and abuse increase your risks of:

Developing health conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Brain and heart damage
  • Liver damage
  • Cancer
  • Hurting yourself or others in an accident
  • Death

Alcohol dependence and abuse can lead you to:

Neglect your responsibilities:

  • You may try to avoid family and friends
  • You may miss deadlines at work

Put yourself and others in physical danger if you drink:

  • While driving
  • While using machines or sharp objects

Some adults enjoy drinking alcohol now and then.

Many people can safely drink small amounts of alcohol.

But, anyone can start to drink too much alcohol.

People with developmental disabilities may be at greater risk of alcohol dependence and abuse than others.

You may be at greater risk if:

One of your parents is, or was, dependent on alcohol

You have a medical condition that makes it unsafe for you to drink alcohol

You take medication that should not be taken with alcohol

Alcohol dependence and abuse can be hard to recognize.

Many people deny that they are dependent on, or abuse, alcohol.

Some signs that you can look for in yourself or others are:

  • Getting annoyed when others comment on, or criticize, your drinking habits
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about alcohol, drinking alcohol, or recovering from drinking alcohol

More Signs of Alcohol Dependence and Abuse

Not being able to remember what you did while you were drinking alcohol

Not being able to stop drinking after you have had one or two drinks

Using alcohol to relax, to cheer up, to sleep, or to deal with problems

Feeling sick and worried when you try to stop drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol in secret

If you or someone you know drinks a lot of alcohol, tell someone!

If you think that you may be dependent on, or are abusing alcohol, tell your doctor or someone you trust right away.

If you are concerned about a friend’s, or a family member’s drinking, you should ask them to see a doctor.

Your doctor will know the best way to help you to stop drinking.

Your doctor might recommend medication, counseling, and support groups.

It may be very hard for you to stop drinking.

Your friends and supports can help you.

You can change your behavior.

  • You can decide to:
  • Spend less time with people who drink a lot of alcohol
  • Go places where people do not drink
  • Find new friends who do not drink alcohol
  • A support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can help you make choices that are right for you.

You can prevent alcohol dependence.

If you think you are drinking too much alcohol, talk to:

  • A support or health care provider
  • A friend
  • A family member

Limit how much you drink or stop drinking, before you have a problem.

  • By doing this, you can keep your body healthy and your life in balance.

You should never drink alcohol if you:

  • Are recovering from alcoholism
  • Are younger than age 21
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Have a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking alcohol
  • Are taking a medicine that should not be mixed with alcohol

You should never drink and drive!

You should never drink alcohol before you drive a car or operate machinery.

Drinking and driving is very dangerous and can cause serious accidents on the road.

If someone you are with has been drinking alcohol, do not get in a car that they are driving.

If you decide that you never want to drink alcohol, that is okay.

You can make your own choices!

Even if you are around other people who are drinking, you can tell them that you do not drink alcohol.

Do not let other people pressure you into drinking alcohol if you do not want to, or if your doctor has told you that you should not.

Here is a checklist that can help.

This checklist can help you decide if you or a friend should talk with someone you trust about alcohol dependence.

These websites can also give you more information about alcoholism.

  • WebMD
Last updated on Mon, 06/14/2010 - 11:57