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​Alcoholism is a disease that causes a dependency on alcohol.

It worsens over time if untreated.

The Behavioral Health professionals at Marshfield Clinic provide a complete range of mental health services in a caring and confidential manner.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease in which a person is dependent on a drug—alcohol. The disease can harm the person’s physical and mental health.

It can also affect his or her behavior. Alcoholism is not a character flaw. It is not a moral failure. It is a disease that worsens over time. Untreated, it can lead to brain damage and death. Recovery is possible if drinking is stopped.

Drunk male, lying  on table staring at empty bottle of alcohol and glass of alcohol..

Effects of alcoholism

Behavioral effects

Drinking is the main behavior of people with alcoholism. They develop a private relationship with drinking. They guard it. They give it their time, money, and attention.

This may happen at the expense of family and friends. They lie for it and think about it all the time. They may risk losing their families for it. They may risk their lives for it. Despite the harm it causes, they can’t control the drinking.

Health risks

People with alcoholism are at high risk for health problems. These include heart disease and cancer. They also include mental illness. People with the disease may not heal from illness normally. Unless drinking is stopped, it can cause death. Death may result from organ failure, cancer, or common viruses. Death may also result from accidents or suicide.

Physical effects

Alcohol can be like a poison to the body. It kills cells. Heavy drinking over a long time can greatly harm the body’s organs. These can include the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas. Chronic drinking also harms the digestive tract. It harms the immune system as well. This leaves the body vulnerable to serious disease.

Psychological effects

Alcoholism can lead to a type of distorted thinking known as “alcohol-think.” One of the most common forms of this is denial. This is when the person denies that drinking is a problem. He or she may deny that any of the problems in his or her life are caused by drinking.

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What Do You Know About Alcohol Abuse?

Misusing alcohol can lead to serious problems. Alcohol-use disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe. Alcohol-use disorder is a pattern of drinking that results in failure to meet work, home, or school responsibilities, among other things. Older terms to used to describe this disorder are alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism. The disorder is considered a disease. Symptoms include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Learn more about the effects of abusing alcohol by taking this quiz, based on information from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

1. Alcohol abuse is greatest among which of these age groups?
2. How many drinks a day is defined as moderate alcohol consumption for women?
3. Which of these is a symptom of alcohol-use disorder?
4. Which of these factors contributes to alcohol-use disorder?
5. Which of these behaviors may be a symptom of alcohol-use disorder?
6. Why is alcohol-use disorder in someone older than 65 more dangerous?
7. Alcohol-use disorder increases your risk for:
8. What can you do to drink less?