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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.

Care for alcoholism at Rush

The Rush Addiction Medicine Program serves patients who suffer from alcoholism and other addictive disorders. Every person suffering with alcoholism has a unique set of circumstances. The team collaborates to create individualized treatment plans. These plans use a variety of approaches, customized to each patient.

Treating the physical causes and effects of alcoholism might include medications, to do the following:

  • Relieve anxiety and agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal
  • Decrease the craving for alcohol
  • Help the brain work normally again after long-term alcohol abuse
  • Cause unpleasant effects when you drink even a small amount of alcohol

Treating the emotional issues related to alcoholism might include the following:

Interventions can be prescribed alone or in combination. For example, to reduce alcohol cravings and promote recovery, the team might recommend that you take medications along with attending therapy sessions.

The program also focuses on treating the wide range of issues that people with alcoholism can experience.

Addressing additional conditions might include treatment for the following:

  • Anxiety disorders and other mood disorders
  • Anorexia
  • Compulsive gambling or shopping
  • Drug addiction
  • Sexual addiction
  • Workaholism

Why choose Rush for treatment of alcoholism?

  • The Addiction Medicine Program, part of the Rush Department of Psychiatry, brings together experts from that department and others to offer comprehensive services to those who suffer from substance abuse issues. The multidisciplinary team has expertise in a wide range of areas and is experienced at working together to coordinate treatment so it’s streamlined and easily accessible.
  • People with alcoholism run a higher than normal risk for several other conditions, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Because Rush is a large medical center with many resources, treatment for alcoholism can be integrated with care for other diseases.

Departments and programs that treat this condition