Substance Abuse and Addiction - Topic Overview
Is this topic for you?
This topic is about alcohol
abuse and dependence in adults. For information about alcohol problems in teens
or children, see the topic
Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
What are alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence?
abuse means having unhealthy or dangerous drinking
habits, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. Alcohol
abuse can harm your relationships, cause you to miss work, and lead to legal
problems such as driving while drunk
(intoxicated). When you abuse alcohol, you continue to
drink even though you know your drinking is causing problems.
you continue to abuse alcohol, it can lead to alcohol
dependence. Alcohol dependence is also called
alcoholism. You are physically or mentally
addicted to alcohol. You have a strong need, or
craving, to drink. You feel like you must drink just to get by.
You might be dependent on alcohol if you have three or more of the
following problems in a year:
- You cannot quit drinking or control how much you drink.
- You need to drink more to get the same effect.
- You have
withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These
include feeling sick to your stomach, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
- You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking,
or you have given up other activities so you can drink.
- You have
tried to quit drinking or to cut back the amount you drink but haven't been
- You continue to drink even though it harms your relationships
and causes physical problems.
Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease. It's not a weakness
or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be
predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by your genes and your life
How much drinking is too much?
Alcohol is part of
many people's lives and may have a place in cultural and family traditions. It
can sometimes be hard to know when you begin to drink too much.
You are at risk of drinking too much and should talk to your doctor if you
- A woman who has more than 3 drinks at one
time or more than 7 drinks a week. A
standard drink is 1 can of beer, 1 glass of wine, or 1 mixed drink.
A man who has more than 4 drinks at one time or more than 14 drinks a
- Interactive Tool: Do You Have a Drinking Problem?
What are some signs of alcohol abuse or dependence?
Certain behaviors may mean that you're having trouble with alcohol. These
- Drinking in the morning, often being drunk for long periods of
time, or drinking alone.
- Changing what you drink, such as switching
from beer to wine because you think it will help you drink less or keep you
from getting drunk.
- Feeling guilty after drinking.
- Making excuses for your drinking or doing things to hide your
drinking, such as buying alcohol at different stores.
remembering what you did while you were drinking
- Worrying that you won't get enough alcohol for an
evening or weekend.