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Alcoholism and alcohol abuse

  • Alternative Names

    Alcohol dependence; Alcohol abuse; Problem drinking; Drinking problem


    People who have alcoholism or alcohol abuse often:

    • Continue to drink, even when health, work, or family are being harmed
    • Drink alone
    • Become violent when drinking
    • Become hostile when asked about drinking
    • Are not able to control drinking -- being unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake
    • Make excuses to drink
    • Miss work or school, or have a decrease in performance because of drinking
    • Stop taking part in activities because of alcohol
    • Need to use alcohol on most days to get through the day
    • Neglect to eat or eat poorly
    • Do not care about or ignore how they dress or whether they are clean
    • Try to hide alcohol use
    • Shake in the morning or after periods when they have not a drink

    Symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

    • Memory lapses after heavy drinking
    • Needing more and more alcohol to feel "drunk"
    • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you haven't had a drink for a while
    • Alcohol-related illnesses such as alcoholic liver disease

    Signs and tests

    The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical and family history, including use of alcohol.

    The following questions are used by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to screen for alcohol abuse or dependence:

    • Do you ever drive when you have been drinking?
    • Do you have to drink more than before to get drunk or feel the desired effect?
    • Have you felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
    • Have you ever had any blackouts after drinking?
    • Have you ever missed work or lost a job because of drinking?
    • Is someone in your family worried about your drinking?

    Tests that may be done include:

    • Blood alcohol level (this can tell whether someone has recently been drinking alcohol, but it does not necessarily confirm alcoholism)
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Liver function tests
    • Magnesium blood test