What Do We Mean By Alcoholism?

Question: What Do We Mean By Alcoholism?

Answer: Alcoholism, also known as "alcohol dependence," is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It includes four symptoms:

  • Craving -- A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  • Impaired control -- The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence -- Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use stops after a period of heavy drinking.
  • Tolerance -- The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.

For clinical and research purposes, formal diagnostic criteria for alcoholism also have been developed. From 1994 until 2013, such criteria were included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as in the International Classification Diseases, published by the World Health Organization.

The DSM-IV divided alcohol problems into two catergories: alcohol abuse and the more severe alcohol dependence.

As of May 2013, the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) changed the disgnosis to alcohol use disorders, which are categorized either mild, moderate, or severe

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