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Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is the popular term for the disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as alcohol dependence. The hallmarks of Alcohol Abuse are addiction to alcohol, inability to stop drinking, and repeated interpersonal, school- or work-related problems that can be directly attributed to the use of alcohol. Alcoholism can have serious consequences, affecting an individual's health and personal life, as well as impacting society at large. Alcohol dependence is a complex disorder that includes the social and interpersonal issues mentioned above, and also includes biological elements, as well. These elements are related to tolerance and withdrawal, cognitive (thinking) problems that include craving, and behavioral abnormalities including the impaired ability to stop drinking. Withdrawal is a term that refers to the symptoms that occur when a person dependent on a substance stops taking that substance for a period of time; withdrawal symptoms vary in type and severity depending on the substance, but alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include shaking, irritability, and nausea. Tolerance is a reduced response to the alcohol consumed and can be acute or chronic. Acute tolerance occurs during a single episode of drinking and is greater when blood alcohol concentration rises. Chronic tolerance occurs over the long term when there is greater resistance to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, and, as a result, the affected person has to drink more to achieve desired effect. The APA also recognizes another alcohol use disorder called alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is similar to dependence in that the use of alcohol is impairing the affected person's ability to achieve goals and fulfill responsibilities, and his or her interpersonal relationships are affected by the alcohol abuse. However, unlike a person with dependence, a person diagnosed with alcohol abuse does not experience tolerance or, when not drinking, withdrawal symptoms. People who abuse alcohol can become dependent on the substance over time.

Alcohol-related disorders are groups of disorders that can result in persons who are long-term users of alcohol. These Alcohol Abuse disorders can affect the person's metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, bone marrow (the matter in bones that forms essential blood cells) and can cause endocrine (hormone) problems. Additionally, alcoholism can result in nutritional deficiencies. Some common alcohol-related medical disorders include vitamin deficiencies, alterations in sugar and fat levels in blood, hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis, esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), dementia, abnormal heart rates and rhythms, lowered platelets (cells important for forming a clot), leukopenia (decrease in the number of white blood cells that are important for body defenses and immunity), and testicular atrophy (shrinking of the testicles). People with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder may consume alcohol for temporary relief from their symptoms. Others, such as people with antisocial personality disorder, may use alcohol as part of a dual diagnosis of criminality and substance dependence.