What is alcoholism?

A person has a drinking problem if he or she repeatedly drinks to excess to relieve life's pressures. Eventually overdrinking leads to health and social problems. A drinking problem becomes alcoholism when the person develops a physical dependence (addiction) or a psychological dependence on alcohol. An alcoholic has a strong craving for alcohol and is unable to limit the amount that he or she consumes, thus developing a high tolerance for alcohol. In addition, an alcoholic suffers from withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, tremors, and anxiety, along with blackouts and personality changes if or when they do not (or are not able to) drink.

Fredrick Wade
Addiction Medicine
Alcoholism is best described as an illness that causes psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. It is characterized by denial, obsessive and repeated use of alcohol, continued use despite negative consequences, and the development of tolerance.  Which leads to increased consumption, followed by physical dependence.  Those with alcohol dependence are exposed to a range of health problems, and ever decreasing ability to manage day to day life tasks such as work, school or family responsibilities, and will present with denial of the aforementioned conditions. This is an illness which left untreated over time will destroy your life.

Continue Learning about Alcoholism

Helping a Friend Who’s Had Too Much
Helping a Friend Who’s Had Too Much
The Hangover series took in over $1.4 BILLION worldwide -- ‘cause apparently people love to view guys who drink too much...
Read More
How can I know if I am an alcoholic?
Dr. Timothy W. Fong, MDDr. Timothy W. Fong, MD
If a male drinks more than five drinks in a single occasion, that's an episode of heavy drinking. It...
More Answers
10 Worst Cities for Alcohol Abuse
10 Worst Cities for Alcohol Abuse10 Worst Cities for Alcohol Abuse10 Worst Cities for Alcohol Abuse10 Worst Cities for Alcohol Abuse
Drinking too much alcohol can make your RealAge significantly older.
Start Slideshow
Why Elizabeth Vargas Couldn’t Stop Drinking
Why Elizabeth Vargas Couldn’t Stop Drinking

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.