Alcohol abuse is the desire for alcohol even when there are alcohol-related work, legal, health, and family problems. Alcohol abuse can progress to alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Alcoholism is a condition in which a person becomes physically dependent on the effects of alcohol and drinks to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism include:

    
  • Genes
  • Brain chemicals that may be different
  • Social pressure
  • Emotional stress
  • Pain
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Problem drinking behaviors learned from family and friends
  • It is estimated that nearly 17.6 million people in the United States abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. More men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. Alcohol problems are highest among young adults, age 18 to 29, and lowest among adults age 65 and older.

    Risks Associated With Alcoholism

    Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism

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    Alcoholism can increase your risk of the following:

        
  • Accidents and injury, including motor vehicle accidents and falls
  • Violence, murder, and suicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Family problems
  • Failed relationships
  • Lost jobs
  • Problems with the law, including drunk driving
  • Depression
  • Drug interactions
  • Certain cancers, especially cancer of the liver, esophagus, throat, larynx, and pancreas
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems (such as bleeding, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagus)
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual disorders, including impotence
  • Reproductive problems
  • Postoperative complications (such as infections, bleeding, and delayed healing)
  • Other addictions
  • Neurological problems and brain damage (in long-term use)
  • Liver damage, including cirrhosis
  • Heart and circulatory problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Hormonal problems in both sexes
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (in the babies of women who drank during pregnancy)
  • Malnutrition
  • Disorders of the immune system and increased risk of infection