Information for Patients
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Also called: Alcohol dependence
For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that their drinking causes distress and harm. It includes alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that causes
- Craving - a strong need to drink
- Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've started
- Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms
- Tolerance - the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect
With alcohol abuse, you are not physically dependent, but you still have a serious problem. The drinking may cause problems at home, work, or school. It may cause you to put yourself in dangerous situations, or lead to legal or social problems.
Another common problem is binge drinking. It is drinking about five or more drinks in two hours for men. For women, it is about four or more drinks in two hours.
Too much alcohol is dangerous. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It can cause damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. Drinking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Alcohol also increases the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.
You may have an AUD if you can answer yes to two or more of these questions:
In the past year, have you
- Ended up drinking more or for a longer time than you had planned to?
- Wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
- Spent a lot of your time drinking, or recovering from drinking?
- Felt a strong need to drink?
- Found that drinking - or being sick from drinking - often interfered with your family life, job, or school?
- Kept drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed just so you could drink?
- Gotten into dangerous situations while drinking or after drinking? Some examples are driving drunk and having unsafe sex.
- Kept drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious? Or when it was adding to another health problem?
- Had to drink more and more to feel the effects of the alcohol?
- Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off? They include trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, and sweating. In severe cases, you could have a fever, seizures, or hallucinations.
If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more serious the problem is. If you think you might have an AUD, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Your provider can help make a treatment plan, prescribe medicines, and if needed, give you treatment referrals.
NIH: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Alcohol use disorder (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Alcohol withdrawal (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Alcoholic ketoacidosis (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Alcoholic liver disease (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Alcoholic neuropathy (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Deciding to quit drinking alcohol (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Health risks of alcohol use (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Helping a loved one with a drinking problem (Medical Encyclopedia)
- When you are drinking too much - tips for cutting back (Medical Encyclopedia)
Also called: Senility
Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. However, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language. Although dementia is common in very elderly people, it is not part of normal aging.
Many different diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and stroke. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases. While these drugs cannot cure dementia or repair brain damage, they may improve symptoms or slow down the disease.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Dementia (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Dementia - behavior and sleep problems (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Dementia - daily care (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Dementia - keeping safe in the home (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Dementia and driving (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Dementia due to metabolic causes (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Mental status testing (Medical Encyclopedia)