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Alcoholism is when an individual has a physical addiction and carries on drinking in spite of problems with physical and mental health, and family, job and social responsibilities. In cases of alcoholism, there is dependence in alcohol. Alcoholism should not be confused with alcohol abuse, whereas the latter pertains to when drinking too much alcohol leads to problems at home, work or school.

One of the main problems with alcoholism is that the individual has not drawn a clear line between moderate social drinking and drinking problem, thus what an alcoholic may deem normal may be excessive amounts for most people.The exact cause of alcohol dependence is not known. However, it is assumed that genetic, environmental, social and emotional health factors are attributed to the causing alcohol dependence.

Stages of Alcoholism

There are five stages of alcohol and drug use, which are as follows:

  • First stage:
    • Access to alcohol
  • Second stage:
    • Experimentation or infrequent to regular weekly use of alcohol
  • Third stage:
    • Increase in alcohol use occurrence
  • Fourth stage:
    • Regular alcohol drinking
  • Fifth stage:
    • Person feels different when not drinking alcohol and need alcohol to feel normal

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is not passed on from one generation to the next. It is, however, almost certain that a family history of alcohol abuse may increase risks of developing alcohol dependence. The following are the other factors that may increase chances of developing alcoholism:

  • Being close to someone who has history of alcohol abuse
  • Young adult under peer pressure
  • People who suffer from mental health issues such as, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
  • Feeling out of place
  • Low self-esteem
  • Easy access to alcohol
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Relationship troubles
  • Lives in a culture that accepts and is open to alcohol

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Feeling the need for alcohol to function is the most obvious symptom for alcoholism. The other signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Increased alcohol tolerance
  • When alcohol is taken away, withdrawal symptoms manifest such as,
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Irritability
    • Trembling
    • Fatigue
    • Insomnia
    • Nausea and vomiting
  • No control over drinking
  • Even if one wants to quit, he/ she cannot
  • Giving up other activities because of alcohol
  • Devoting a lot of energy and focus on alcohol
  • Aware of the problems caused by alcohol but continues to drink

Treatment for Alcoholism

The goal of treatment for alcoholism is to completely stop drinking alcohol, which is called abstinence. This may be very difficult for individuals who have become very dependent on alcohol. Treatment for alcohol abuse usually includes:

  • Group therapy
  • Counselling
  • Alcohol educations
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • If a loved one is suspected of alcoholism, express your concern and explain that you are willing to help.

Although it is possible to quit on your own, it will require great determination and a tremendous amount of support from family and friends. Disclaimer: This article should not be used for self-diagnosis and should be used for information purposes only. It does not provide medical advice or treatment. Red Cross programs offer First Aid Courses that are made available to all to learn proper approach and support to individuals with alcoholism.


Alcoholism and alcohol abuse. (2011). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from

Smith, Melinda, Robinson, Lawrence, and Segal, Jeanne. (2013). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from

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