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Alcohol Dependence


Alcohol dependence is the need to drink alcohol often to function in your daily life.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your heart is beating faster than normal.
  • You have hallucinations.
  • You cannot remember what happens while you are drinking.
  • You are anxious and have nausea.
  • Your hands are shaky and you are sweating heavily.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Alcohol dependence

includes at least 3 of the following during the past 12 months:

  • You keep drinking alcohol even if you know it increases your risk for health problems. Health problems include liver problems, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and stroke.
  • You develop a tolerance for alcohol. Tolerance means the amount of alcohol you usually drink no longer causes the effects you desire. You need to drink even more alcohol to get the same effect.
  • You have physical or mental withdrawal symptoms after not drinking for a short period. The same amount of alcohol is needed to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms. You may also have to drink to stop tremors (shakes) or to cure a hangover.
  • You crave alcohol. You have a desire to drink more often and to drink larger amounts of alcohol.
  • You have problems managing alcohol use. You are not able to control your drinking habits. You keep going back to drinking even after you quit.
  • You spend less time doing more important things. You spend much of your time drinking alcohol or being with people who also drink. You have trouble with social or daily activities at school, work, or home. You often choose events or activities that will include drinking.

Do not try to stop drinking on your own:

Your healthcare provider will help you withdraw from alcohol safely. He or she may need to admit you to the hospital. You may also need any of the following treatments:

  • Medicines to decrease your craving for alcohol
  • Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Psychiatrist or psychologist for therapy
  • Admission to an inpatient facility for treatment for severe dependence

For support and more information:

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

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

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