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  » Men's health  »  What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:

  • Craving — a b need, or urge, to drink.
  • Loss of control — not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  • Physical dependence — withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.
  • Tolerance — the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high."

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism runs in families, but lifestyle factors, such as having friends that use or abuse alcohol, having a high amount of stress in your life, and having alcohol easily available to you also are factors. Knowing you are at risk is important, though, because then you can take steps to protect yourself from developing problems with alcohol. And with support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

A person can abuse alcohol without actually being an alcoholic—that is, he or she may drink too much and too often but still not be dependent on alcohol. Some of the problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to complete tasks for your job, school, or family; drunk-driving arrests and car crashes; and drinking-related health problems. Sometimes, even social or moderate drinking can be a problem-such as drinking and driving.