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Abuse Of Alcohol


What is alcohol abuse?

  • Alcohol abuse is unhealthy drinking behavior. You may drink too much once a week, or continue to drink too much daily. You continue to drink even though it causes problems. The problems may include legal problems, problems at work, or problems with relationships.
  • If you drink too much at one time, you are binge drinking. Binge drinking is when you have a large amount of alcohol in a short time. Your blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) goes above 0.08 g/dLlevel during binge drinking. For men, this usually happens with more than 4 drinks in 2 hours. For women, it is more than 3 drinks in 2 hours. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse?

Each person that abuses alcohol may have different symptoms. The following are common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse:

  • Loss of interest in activities, work, and school
  • Decreased interest in family and friends
  • Depression
  • Constant thoughts about drinking
  • Not able to control the amount you drink
  • Restlessness, or erratic and violent behavior

What are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse?

  • Blackouts
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency

What treatments or therapies are used to treat alcohol abuse?

  • Detoxification (detox) and withdrawal is a program that helps you to safely get alcohol out of your body. Detox can also help get rid of the physical need to drink. Healthcare providers monitor the physical symptoms of withdrawal. They may give you medicines to help decrease nausea, dehydration, and seizures. Healthcare providers will also monitor your blood pressure, heart and breathing rates, and your temperature. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are also monitored and managed during detox. Healthcare providers may give you medicines for these symptoms and therapy sessions will be available to you. Detox is usually done at a detox center or in a hospital. Healthcare providers do not recommend that you try to detox at home or by yourself. Withdrawal symptoms may become life-threatening. The center can help you find 12 step programs or an individual therapist to help with emotional support after detox.
  • Inpatient and outpatient treatment focus on your personal needs to help you stop drinking. Treatment helps you understand the reasons you abuse alcohol. Counselors and therapists provide you with support and help you find ways to cope instead of drinking. You may need inpatient treatment to provide a controlled environment. You may need outpatient treatment after your inpatient treatment is complete.
  • Alcohol aversion therapy takes away the desire to drink by causing a negative reaction when you drink. Healthcare providers may give you medicines that cause nausea and vomiting when you drink alcohol. They may instead give you a medicine that decreases your urge to drink alcohol. These medicines are used to help you stop drinking or reduce the amount you drink. They can also help you avoid relapse.

What are the risks of alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse increases your risk for gastrointestinal cancers, brain damage and problems with your immune system. It also increases your risk for heart, kidney, and lung damage. The risk of stroke increases with alcohol abuse. If you are pregnant and drink alcohol, you and your baby are at risk for serious health problems.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Web Address:
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Web Address:

Call 911 for the following:

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You want to harm yourself or others.
  • You have a seizure or have shaking or trembling.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have hallucinations (you see or hear things that are not real).
  • You cannot stop vomiting or you vomit blood.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You need help to stop drinking alcohol.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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