Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence stems from the body's gradual inability to tolerate alcohol. Alcohol dependence is usually a gradual process, whereby the human body loses its ability to deal with even a minimum amount of alcohol. The "dependence on alcohol" comes when even a small amount of alcohol triggers a powerful craving for more and more alcohol and a feeling they need to drink to have fun, relax, etc.

Definition of Alcohol Dependence

Being dependent upon alcohol, the actual need to drink alcohol is close to alcoholism, but not the same. Not all alcoholics are not necessary alcohol dependent. This is a fine but important distinction. Unlike alcoholism, which has a physical component, alcohol dependence would be a psychological, rather than a physical phenomenon. In a certain regard, alcohol dependence is more serious than alcoholism. Alcoholics can go without drinking alcohol for long periods of time. People with alcohol dependence cannot go without drinking alcohol for more than a few days.

Determining the Level of Dependence

Assessment by a professional is a valuable tool, and the use of formal assessment instrument is recommended. The first step in treatment is to determine whether you're alcohol dependent. If you haven't lost control over your use of alcohol, treatment may involve reducing your drinking. If you're dependent on alcohol, simply cutting back is ineffective. Abstinence must be part of your treatment goal. If you aren't dependent on alcohol but are experiencing the adverse effects of drinking, the goal of treatment is to reduce alcohol-related problems - often through counseling or a brief intervention, which usually involves alcohol abuse specialists who can establish a specific treatment plan. Interventions may include goal setting, behavior modification techniques, use of self-help manuals, counseling and follow-up care at a treatment center.


Counseling may take many forms. With cognitive behavioral therapy, you and your therapist identify distorted thoughts and beliefs that trigger psychological stress. You learn new ways to view and cope with traumatic events. Emphasis is placed on developing a sense of mastery and control of your thoughts and feelings. Another option may be aversion therapy, in which drinking alcohol is paired with a strong aversive response - such as nausea or vomiting induced by a medication. After repeated pairing, the alcohol itself causes the aversive response, which decreases the likelihood of relapse. Alcohol dependence is a pattern of drinking that result in harm to one's health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work. Manifestations of alcohol dependence include:


  • Failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school, or home

  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking while driving or operating machinery

  • Legal problems related to alcohol, such as being arrested for drinking while driving or for physically hurting someone while drunk.

  • Continued drinking despite ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking

  • Long-term alcohol abuse can turn into alcohol dependence

  • A strong craving for alcohol

  • Continued use despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems

  • The inability to limit drinking

  • Physical illness when one stops drinking

  • The need to drink increasing amounts to feel its effects

  • Cravings strong need, or urge, to drink.


  • Loss of control not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun for Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Alcohol and Drug Abuse


  • Physical dependence withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking for alcohol and drug abuse tolerance is the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high."


Alcohol Use and Abuse Statistics - First Use of Alcohol

Among adults aged 21 or older who first used alcohol at age 14 or younger, 14.7 percent were dependent on or abusing alcohol in the past year; this can be further broken down as follows: 7.7 percent had alcohol dependence, and 7.0 percent had alcohol abuse.


Among adults aged 21 or older who first used alcohol at age 15 to 17, 10.2 percent were dependent on or abusing alcohol in the past year; this can be further broken down as follows: 4.5 percent had alcohol dependence, and 5.7 percent had alcohol abuse.


Among adults aged 21 or older who first used alcohol at age 18 to 20, 4.9 percent were dependent on or abusing alcohol in the past year; this can be further broken down as follows: 2.0 percent had alcohol dependence, and 2.8 percent had alcohol abuse.


Among adults aged 21 or older who first used alcohol at age 21 or older, 2.2 percent were dependent on or abusing alcohol in the past year; this can be further broken down as follows: 0.9 percent had alcohol dependence, and 1.3 percent had alcohol abuse.

alcohol dependence

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