Alcoholism Information

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  September 29 ,
| 4 Sources


Alcoholism is a disease, a chronic one. It causes serious health problems and also has serious psycho-social effects, damaging relationships and often leading to financial and even legal problems. Chronic alcoholism damages the heart, liver, brain and other organs. It can be deadly.

Alcoholism is an equal opportunity illness. It affects men and women, young and old, rich and poor, people from all walks of life, all races, all religions, all backgrounds and upbringings. 

Early stages of alcohol abuse and dependence may go unrecognized by family, friends and co-workers. The drinker himself (or herself) may not recognize a problem is developing, either. As the disease progresses, alcohol consumption progressively impacts physical and mental health. Family, friendships and work responsibilities are affected.  Financial problems sometimes occur related to drinking. Legal problems may also result, such as arrests for driving while under the influence.

As the illness progresses, it usually becomes apparent to those close to an alcoholic that there is a problem, a serious problem. Alcoholics often deny there is a problem, though, and resist getting help. The longer the illness progresses, the more serious it usually gets.

Causes of Alcoholism

The alcoholism information we have currently does not tell us exactly what causes some people to become alcoholics while others are able to safely drink alcohol in moderation. The development of alcoholism is most likely influenced by a combination of many things, including genetic, psychological and environmental factors. Risk factors for alcoholism include a family history of the disease, a history of mental health problems such as depression, and drinking while taking certain medications. Those who begin drinking at a very early age are also more likely to become alcoholics.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Cravings for alcohol throughout the day.
  • Feeling compelled to drink.
  • Inability to control or moderate drinking behavior.
  • Hiding alcohol around the house, or even at work or in your car, to make sure you always have it available.
  • Getting irritable or anxious if you can’t drink, or avoiding activities where alcohol won’t be available.
  • Drinking alone, hiding how much you drink from friends and family members.
  • Physical dependence on the drug. Without alcohol, withdrawal symptoms occur that may include nausea, irritability, anxiety, tremors, and even seizures.
  • Increasing tolerance, which means you need to drink more and more in order to achieve the same results and pleasure from drinking.
  • Having blackouts from drinking.
  • Dangerous, risky drinking, such as drinking and driving.
  • Regular law enforcement conflicts that are related to alcohol, such as driving while impaired (DUI) or assault when drinking.
  • Continued drinking despite the negative effects of alcohol on work, health and family.

Symptoms generally grow progressively worse over time. If you’re not sure whether you or someone you care about has a drinking problem or is an alcoholic, talk to your doctor or contact a substance abuse counselor or alcoholism treatment center for an evaluation.

Alcoholism Information

Treatment for Alcoholism

Like all addictions, treating alcoholism is complex and challenging. Depending on circumstances, treatment may involve one or more of the following: 

  • Intervention
  • Detoxification 
  • Inpatient or residential treatment 
  • An intensive outpatient program 
  • Outpatient treatment 
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Medication
  • Alcoholism information and education for both the alcoholic and family members
  • Nutrition management
  • Medical care for alcohol-related health problems like ulcers or liver disease 
  • A sober living facility
  • On-going self-help group participation (such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings)  

If that sounds like a lot, well, it is. Alcoholism is a serious illness and the treatment process is on-going and complex. While not all alcoholics will require all of these components of treatment, most will require many of them. The treatment process can be rather lengthy and recovery is an on-going process.

It is important to recognize the fact that there is no cure for the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholics that have been through treatment and stopped drinking are said to be “in recovery” but not recovered or cured. Still, through proper and timely treatment and ongoing follow-up, alcohol-addicted individuals can live productive, happy lives.

For More Information on Alcoholism and the Treatment Process

If you have questions or would like additional alcoholism information, please contact us. We’ll do our best to help. You can also talk to your physician or contact a substance abuse counselor or alcoholism treatment center for more information, of course.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

More than alcoholism information on our alcoholism facts page

Alcoholism home page