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 is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
- Tolerance – The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.
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.