Alcoholism Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About Alcohol Use Disorders

Alcohol abuse information
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Is it alcoholism or a mild alcohol use disorder? Can you have a drinking problem and not be an alcoholic? What are the treatments for drinking problems?

Here is a comprehensive list of the questions most often asked about alcohol, alcoholism and substance abuse, along with their answers. They provide information to better understand the health consequences of alcohol abuse disorders. Consult your physician or healthcare provider if you or a loved one has an alcohol problem.

What Do We Mean by Alcoholism?

There really is no official diagnosis called "alcoholism." What the entire world knows as alcoholism is officially known as a severe alcohol use disorder. So, what are we referring to when we use the term "alcoholism?" Learn more...

Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease with symptoms that include a strong need to drink despite negative consequences, such as serious job or health problems. Like many other diseases, it has a generally predictable course, has recognized symptoms, and is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors that are being increasingly well defined. It Doesn't Seem Like a Disease...

Is Alcoholism Inherited?

Alcoholism tends to run in families, and genetic factors partially explain this pattern. Researchers are finding genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism. A person's environment, such as the influence of friends, stress levels, and the ease of obtaining alcohol, also may influence drinking and the development of alcoholism.

Still other factors, such as social support, may help to protect even high-risk people from alcohol problems.

Risk, however, is not destiny. A child of an alcoholic parent will not automatically develop alcoholism. A person with no family history of alcoholism can become alcohol dependent. Read more...

Can Alcoholism Be Cured?

Not yet. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, and medication has also become available to help prevent relapse, but a cure has not yet been found. This means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time and has regained health, he or she may relapse and must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages. Treatment options...

Are There Any Medications for Alcoholism?

There are currently only three medications approved by the FDA specifically for treating alcoholism. Disulfiram (Antabuse) makes the person violently sick if they drink while taking it, Naltrexone (Revia) blocks the effects of alcohol in the brain, and Acamprosate (Campral) reduces the craving for alcohol. Read more...

Does Alcoholism Treatment Work?

The effectiveness of any treatment program is in a large part dependent on how willing the person is to stop drinking. Research shows that only a small percentage of those who enter professional treatment remain sober one year later, but others have extended periods of sobriety interspersed with relapses.

Learn more...

Does a Person Have to Be Alcoholic to Experience Problems From Alcohol?

No. Even if you are not alcoholic, abusing alcohol can have negative results, such as failure to meet major work, school, or family responsibilities because of drinking; alcohol-related legal trouble; automobile crashes due to drinking; and a variety of alcohol-related medical problems. Under some circumstances, problems can result from even moderate drinking -- for example, when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medicines. Types of problems...

Are Certain Groups of People More Likely to Develop Alcohol Problems Than Others?

Yes. Nearly 14 million people in the United States - 1 in every 13 adults - abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. However, more men than women are alcohol dependent or experience alcohol-related problems. People with a family history of alcoholism are also at greater risk. In addition, rates of alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults 65 years and older. Among major U.S. ethnic groups, rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems vary. See more details...

How Can You Tell Whether You or Someone Close to You Has an Alcohol Problem?

There is a line of thought that goes like this: "If you have to ask, it's probably a problem." Someone's official diagnosis is not important. If their drinking has become a problem for you or the family, then it's a problem. Find out more...

If I Have Trouble With Drinking, Can't I Simply Reduce My Alcohol Use Without Stopping Altogether?

That depends. If you are diagnosed as an alcoholic, the answer is "no." Studies show that nearly all alcoholics who try to merely cut down on drinking are unable to do so indefinitely. Instead, cutting out alcohol (that is, abstaining) is nearly always necessary for successful recovery. However, if you are not alcoholic but have had alcohol-related problems, you may be able to limit the amount you drink. Trying to cut down?...

How Can a Person Get Help for an Alcohol Problem?

Call the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at 1-800-662-HELP for information about treatment programs in your local community. Many people also benefit from support groups. For information on local support meetings run by Alcoholics Anonymous, call your local A.A. chapter (check your local phone directory under "Alcoholism") or call 212-870-3400. Check this page for a list of online meetings.

For meetings of Al-Anon (for friends and family members in an alcoholic person's life) and Alateen (for children of alcoholics), call your local Al-Anon chapter or call the following toll-free number: 1-888-4AL-ANON. Check this page to find online Al-Anon meetings.

If an Alcoholic is Unwilling to Seek Help, Is There Any Way to Get Him or Her Into Treatment?

It can be frustrating trying to get an alcoholic to seek help when they are denying that they have a problem and refuse to reach out for support. But, there are steps that you can take to help an alcoholic accept treatment. More information...

What Is a Safe Level of Drinking?

There are guidelines for the amount of alcohol that most men and women can consume without developing an alcohol use disorder. However, there are certain people who should not consume any amount of alcohol. Read the guidelines...

Is It Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?

Drinking during pregnancy can have a number of harmful effects on the newborn, ranging from mental retardation, organ abnormalities, and hyperactivity to learning and behavioral problems. Moreover, many of these disorders last into adulthood. While we don't yet know exactly how much alcohol is required to cause these problems, we do know that they are 100-percent preventable if a woman does not drink at all during pregnancy. More details...

As People Get Older, Does Alcohol Affect Their Bodies Differently?

Changes in the body as a result of aging can make you more susceptible to the effects of consuming alcohol and increase the risk of injury or accident if you drink. Also, as you age, the more likely your medications will interact with alcohol. More details...

Why Are Older Drinkers More Sensitive to the Effects of Alcohol?

The body treats alcohol as if it were a toxin and tries to break it down and excrete it from the body as quickly as possible. As you get older, your metabolism can change, making it take longer for alcohol to metabolize. Read more...

Does Alcohol Affect A Woman's Body Differently From a Man's Body?

There are many different ways that alcohol affects women differently from men and some of them are related to the fact that women's bodies simply have less water than men. Not only can this affect the way alcohol makes women feel, it also affects some of the long-term health effects of alcohol. Learn more...

I Have Heard That Alcohol Is Good for Your Heart. Is This True?

Several studies have reported that moderate drinkers -- those who have one or two drinks per day -- are less likely to develop heart disease than people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink larger amounts. Small amounts of alcohol may help protect against coronary heart disease by raising levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and by reducing the risk of blood clots in the coronary arteries.

If you are a nondrinker, you should not start drinking only to benefit your heart. Protection against coronary heart disease may be obtained through regular physical activity and a low-fat diet. And if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been diagnosed as alcoholic, or have any medical condition that could make alcohol use harmful, you should not drink.

Even for those who can drink safely and choose to do so, moderation is the key. 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. Can you moderate?...

If I Am Taking Over-the-Counter or Prescription Medication, Do I Have to Stop Drinking?

The short answer is probably. There are very few medications that do not contain a warning about taking it while consuming alcohol. Have you ever seen a warning label that said, "OK to take with alcohol?" More about interactions...

How Many People Drink Alcohol in the U.S.?

More than half of all the people in the United States over 12 years old report that they are current drinkers. The the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) breaks down total alcohol consumption by age groups, gender, and many other categories. Get more details...

What Is a Standard Drink?

A can of beer, a glass of wine and a mixed drink are all considered one standard drink, when it comes to the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption. But, what size can? How many ounces in a glass? How much alcohol in a cocktail? More information...

What Is the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption Test?

The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test is an algorithm of 20 blood chemistry levels, the results of which are compared to a database of test results from more than 1,700 heavy and light drinkers. It is used to determine of someone has engaged in any heavy consumption of alcohol in the past four to six weeks. The EDAC test...

What Does Hitting Bottom Mean?

You hear recovering alcoholics talk about having to hit bottom before they realized they had a problem and reached out for help. That means they ignored a lot of signals they had a problem right up until the point that it finally got painful enough to seek help. Where Is Bottom?...

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?

Have you ever seen someone drink so much that they passed out? Well, passing out can be one sign that they are suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Learn the other symptoms...

Will Alcoholics' Brains Recover Once They Quit Drinking?

According to research by Dr. Andreas Bartsch of the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, abstinence from alcohol enables the brain to reverse the shrinkage caused by alcohol and to perform better, but his research also shows that the longer someone drinks excessively, the more the brain loses the capacity for regeneration. More on brain shrinkage...

I Take Insulin, Can I Drink Alcohol?

In a word, no. If your diabetes is at the point where you require insulin to control your glucose levels, drinking alcohol is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Find out more...

Is a DUI a Felony Charge or a Misdemeanor?

It depends on the circumstances and depends on the state in which you were driving. Drunk driving charges are generally misdemeanors, but in every state and the District of Columbia there are circumstances upon which your DUI charge can be upgraded to a felony. Learn more...

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