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See our Privacy Statement is brought to you by and is intended to provide basic information that you can use to make informed decisions about important health issues affecting you or your loved ones. We hope that you’ll find this information about Alcoholism helpful and that you’ll seek professional medical advice to address any specific symptoms you might have related to this matter.

Alcohol consumption has consequences for the health and well - being of those who drink and, by extension, the lives of those around them.

In addition to this site, we have created the "Healthpedia Network" of sites to provide specific information on a wide variety of health topics.




What is alcoholism?

Is alcoholism a disease?

Is alcoholism inherited?

Can alcoholism be cured?

Can alcoholism be treated?

Does alcoholism treatment work?

What is a safe level of drinking?

Is alcohol good for your heart?

Where can I buy a home test kit for alcohol?

Where can I find more information on alcohol recovery?


What is alcoholism? (top)

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:

Craving--A strong need, or urge, to drink.

Loss of control--Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.

Physical dependence--Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating,  shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.

Tolerance--The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high."


Is alcoholism a disease? (top)

Yes, alcoholism is a disease. The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems.

Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person's lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course; and it has symptoms. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person's genes and by his or her lifestyle.


Is alcoholism inherited? (top)

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes that put people at risk for alcoholism. Your friends, the amount of stress in your life, and how readily available alcohol is also are factors that may increase your risk for alcoholism.

But remember: Risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn't mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. By the same token, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. Knowing you are at risk is important, though, because then you can take steps to protect yourself from developing problems with alcohol.


Can alcoholism be cured? (top)

No, alcoholism cannot be cured at this time. Even if an alcoholic hasn't been drinking for a long time, he or she can still suffer a relapse. To guard against a relapse, an alcoholic must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.


Can alcoholism be treated? (top)

Yes, alcoholism can be treated. Alcoholism treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. Most alcoholics need help to recover from their disease. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

A range of medications is used to treat alcoholism. Benzodiazepines (Valium®, Librium®) are sometimes used during the first days after a person stops drinking to help him or her safely withdraw from alcohol. These medications are not used beyond the first few days, however, because they may be highly addictive. Other medications help people remain sober. One medication used for this purpose is naltrexone (ReVia™). When combined with counseling naltrexone can reduce the craving for alcohol and help prevent a person from returning, or relapsing, to heavy drinking. Another medication, disulfiram (Antabuse®), discourages drinking by making the person feel sick if he or she drinks alcohol.


Does alcoholism treatment work? (top)

Alcoholism treatment works for many people. But just like any chronic disease, there are varying levels of success when it comes to treatment. Some people stop drinking and remain sober. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. And still others cannot stop drinking for any length of time. With treatment, one thing is clear, however: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.


What is a safe level of drinking? (top)

For most adults, moderate alcohol use--up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people--causes few if any problems. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)

Certain people should not drink at all, however:

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

People who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require alertness and skill (such as using high-speed machinery)

People taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications

People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking

Recovering alcoholics

People younger than age 21.


Is alcohol good for your heart? (top)

Studies have shown that moderate drinkers--men who have two or less drinks per day and women who have one or less drinks per day--are less likely to die from one form of heart disease than are people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink more. It's believed that these smaller amounts of alcohol help protect against heart disease by changing the blood's chemistry, thus reducing the risk of blood clots in the heart's arteries.

If you are a nondrinker, however, you should not start drinking solely to benefit your heart. You can guard against heart disease by exercising and eating foods that are low in fat. And if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been diagnosed as alcoholic, or have another medical condition that could make alcohol use harmful, you should not drink.

If you can safely drink alcohol and you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Heavy drinking can actually increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as cause many other medical problems, such as liver cirrhosis.


Click here to buy a home test kit for alcohol.


Where can I find more information on alcohol recovery? (top)

Many people also find support groups a helpful aid to recovery. The following list includes a variety of resources;


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA)

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)






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