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Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol dependence is a disease that develops when a person’s alcohol consumption causes physical or mental health problems, or interferes with responsibilities to friends, family and employers.

Signs of alcoholism include the following:

  • A strong urge to drink
  • Not being able to stop drinking
  • Withdrawal symptoms after stopping (for example, nausea, sweating and anxiety)
  • The need to drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol
  • Binge drinking, or drinking five or more drinks at one time

Alcoholism: what you should know

  • If you’re the child of an alcoholic, you’re about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems. 
  • Drinking more than a moderate amount can be a sign of alcoholism. Moderate drinking is defined as the following:
    • For men: no more than four alcoholic drinks on any one day and no more than 14 drinks per week
    • For women: no more than three drinks on any one day and no more than seven drinks per week
  • Alcohol abuse can damage the liver, brain and other organs. Women who drink while pregnant run the risk of harming their babies.

How can I get help for alcoholism?

If you think you or a loved one may be an alcoholic, talk with your primary care doctor for treatment and referral options. As a supplement to medical help, many people also find it helpful to attend support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Departments and programs that treat this condition