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Alcohol Dependence


What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is the need to drink alcohol often to function in your daily life. You often drink large amounts of alcohol. Alcohol dependence is also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is a disease that can affect almost every part of your body.

What behaviors are common with alcohol dependence?

  • 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 may need to drink even more alcohol to get its previous effects.
  • You put extra effort and time into drinking alcohol. You may often go to events or activities that will include drinking. You may also spend much of your time drinking alcohol or being with people who also drink.
  • You have withdrawal (physical or mental) symptoms after not drinking for a short period. The same amount of alcohol may be 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 may have a desire to drink more frequently and to drink larger amounts of alcohol.
  • You have problems decreasing or controlling 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 have trouble with social or daily activities at school, work, or home.

What increases my risk for alcohol dependence?

  • Family history
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Other substance abuse
  • Childhood trauma
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Other disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and bipolar disorder

How is alcohol dependence treated?

Your healthcare provider may admit you to the hospital to make sure you withdraw safely. Then you may need any of the following:

  • 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

Further information

    • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
      22 Cortlandt St., Suite 801
      New York City , NY 10007-3128
      Phone: 1- 212 - 269-7797
      Phone: 1- 800 - 622-2255
      Web Address:
    • Alcoholics Anonymous
      Web Address:

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