What is alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is a type of problem drinking in which a person continues to drink alcohol even in the face of health problems or undesired complications at work, at home, or in relationships. Alcoholism, another type of problem drinking, is complicated by a physical addiction to alcohol. Problem drinking is a common problem, affecting approximately 15% of the U.S. population (Source: PubMedHealth).

The causes of alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not known, although some risk factors have been identified. For example, people who start drinking alcohol at age 14 or younger tend to have more troubles with alcohol than those who start at age 21 or older. Alcohol problems are most common between the ages of 18 and 29; people age 65 or older are the least likely to have alcohol problems. Alcohol problems are more common in men than in women.

Alcohol affects all of your body’s organs and can cause long-term health effects. Alcohol’s effects on your brain account for many of the symptoms of intoxication, including an increased risk of accidents and impaired judgment. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), high blood pressure, heart disease, malnutrition, brain damage, and certain cancers. Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the US.

Some people are not aware of the troubles alcohol is causing in their lives; honesty and compassion can help them recognize the problems they are having and assist them in setting personal goals for the future. Treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can involve supervised withdrawal and detoxification, recovery programs, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and certain medications. Although treatments have varying rates of success, many people are able to remain abstinent.

Alcohol abuse can have serious, even life-threatening, complications, such as injury, acute alcohol poisoning, and significant medical illness. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide or self harm, persistent vomiting, seizure, slow breathing or not breathing, trauma, vomiting blood, or bloody stool.

Seek prompt medical care if you think you might have a problem with alcohol.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of alcohol abuse?

Symptoms of alcohol abuse include those of alcohol intoxication and those related to unfulfilled responsibilities and the social consequences of drinking.

Common general symptoms of alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse can cause problems in interpersonal relationships, at home, on the job, and with t... Read more about alcohol abusesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes alcohol abuse?

The cause of alcohol abuse is not known, nor is it understood why some people can drink alcohol without its ever causing problems and other people cannot. Alcoholism does tend to run in families, and research suggests there might be genes that increase the risk. Other risk factors related to environment and some psychiatric conditions seem to increase the risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. R... Read more about alcohol abusecauses

TREATMENTS

How is alcohol abuse treated?

Treatment of alcohol abuse begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing alcohol abuse.

The goal of treatment is often to achieve abs... Read more about alcohol abusetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior