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What is alcoholism? Alcohol use disorder, which includes a level of drinking sometimes called alcoholism, is a pattern of alcohol use that involves one or more of the following:
Unhealthy alcohol use includes any use that puts your or others’ health or safety at risk, or causes other alcohol-related problems:
Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe, based on the number of symptoms you experience. Signs and symptoms may include:
Alcohol use disorder can include periods of intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one standard drink as any one of these:
Impact on your safety:
Excessive drinking can reduce your judgment skills and lower inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviors, including:
Impact on your health:
Drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion, or over time, can cause health problems, including:
Alcohol use disorder develops when a person takes a large quantity of alcohol leading to chemical changes in the brain.
Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior. Theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to alcohol use disorder. Risk factors that influence addiction include:
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may change the normal functioning of your brain associated with:
Once you've been addicted to alcohol, you're at high risk of falling back into a pattern of addiction. If you do start using alcohol, it's likely you'll lose control over its use again — even if you've had treatment and you haven't used alcohol for some time.