More than 15 million American adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is characterized by:
- Increased tolerance — needing to drink more and more in order to feel the same effects
- Craving — increased and/or constant craving to drink
- Loss of control — being unable to stop drinking once you’ve started
- Physical dependence — occurrence of withdrawal symptoms during cessation
Alcohol abuse is also a serious problem. You may not be physically dependent yet, but the abuse can cause very serious and negative effects on your physical and mental health as well as your home, work, and/or school life.
What Are the Different Drinking Levels?
It’s possible to drink alcohol normally and healthily. According to current dietary guidelines, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Binge drinking is typically the start of problematic drinking. We generally picture college parties or wild nights out, but binge drinking can just as well happen at home on the couch. Binge drinking is four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men within about two hours.
Heavy drinking is eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Heavy alcohol use is also defined as binge drinking five or more days in one month.
Physical Effects of Alcoholism
88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes in the U.S. (estimated)
Heavy drinking can actually increase the risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, liver, and breast.
Alcohol can also cause severe damage to the brain and liver. Too much alcohol will impair liver function and create a chemical imbalance in the body. Chronic alcohol abuse will cause irreparable damage to liver cells and create a permanent scar tissue around the liver. This is known as cirrhosis of the liver. Almost half of all cirrhosis deaths in 2013 were alcohol related.
Did You Know . . .
Chronic alcohol abuse can cause facial disfigurement, retinal damage / blindness, hair loss, and grey skin.