Alcohol abuse is a disease characterized by a desire for alcohol and by the continuation of drinking even when there are alcohol-related occupational, legal, health, and family problems. Alcohol abuse can progress to alcoholism. Alcoholism is a condition in which a person becomes physically dependent on the effects of alcohol and drinks to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Several factors contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, including:

  • Genes
  • Brain chemicals that may be different than those normally found in the brain
  • Social pressure
  • Emotional stress
  • Pain
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Problem drinking behaviors learned from family and friends

It's estimated that nearly 17.6 million people in the United States abuse alcohol or are considered to be alcoholics. More men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. Alcohol problems are highest among young adults, age 18 to 29, and lowest among adults age 65 and older.

Risks Associated With Alcoholism

Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism

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Alcoholism can increase your risk of the following:

What are the risk factors for alcoholism?
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
How is alcoholism diagnosed?
What are the treatments for alcoholism?
Are there screening tests for alcoholism ?
How can I reduce my risk of alcoholism?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with alcoholism?
Where can I get more information about alcoholism?