Alcohol Abuse and Dependence - 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. For information about
drug abuse in adults, see the topic
Drug Abuse and Dependence.
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
If you think you might have a drinking problem, take a
short quiz to check your symptoms:
Interactive Tool: Do You Have a Drinking Problem?
What are some signs of alcohol abuse or dependence?