Some people continue to drink excessive amounts of alcohol even
though it causes problems in their lives. These people have an alcohol use problem.
Early problems usually develop at home (such as
arguments about drinking), at work (such as absences or decreased work
performance), or with the law (such as arrests for driving under the influence
Later, health problems (such as high blood pressure,
liver problems, or digestive problems) usually develop.
Most people refer to people who drink too much alcohol as having a
drinking problem. Health professionals distinguish between people who have
problem drinking (alcohol abuse) and people who are
dependent on alcohol (alcohol dependence or alcoholism).
The causes of alcohol use problems and alcoholism are complex and involve
physical, social, and emotional aspects.
People with alcoholism may not drink alcohol every day, but they
usually drink heavily when they drink and have withdrawal symptoms if they stop
Alcoholism is a lifelong disease that often causes health,
emotional, behavioral, and social problems. If untreated, it can even lead to
death from the effects of alcohol on the heart, liver, and other parts of the
body. Alcoholism cannot be cured, but it can be successfully treated.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.