According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that result in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
· Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities
· Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
· Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk
· Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking
When a person abuses alcohol s/he uses it with the sole purpose of becoming intoxicated, uses it in such a way that it leads to a pattern of negative consequences, and/or experiences harm directly related to and caused by his/her consumption of alcohol. Some examples of alcohol-related harms commonly experienced by individuals who misuse alcohol are: passing out, vomiting, getting into a fight, and/or memory lapse. Playing drinking games, ie: Beirut, is a common form of alcohol abuse among college students.
When an individual becomes physically dependent on a substance s/he experience cravings and a compulsion to use it. If s/he doesn't use the substance, s/he will experience withdrawal. People who are dependent on alcohol are pre-occupied with the use of the substance, and its use becomes a daily/weekly priority. Students who are alcohol dependent often schedule only late classes, lose the ability to predict how much they are going to drink in a given evening (lack of self-control), experience frequent blackouts, sneak drinks in order to hide how much they actually consume from close friends and family, drink before going out (pre-game), and develop/maintain a high tolerance. In addition, any efforts employed to cut down on drinking are unsuccessful. Although many dependent students feel as though his/her drinking problems will cease with graduation from college, such individuals are often sadly mistaken. Dependency is a serious medical problem that requires time, diligence, and support to overcome. However, help is available.
Alcoholism is the disease that results when an individual becomes physically dependent on/addicted to alcohol. Often non-alcoholics don't understand why an alcoholic can not override their desire to drink with willpower or commitment. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. Alcoholics crave alcohol just as people crave food or water, and will literally feel a compulsion to drink in order to survive. Alcoholics lose the ability to limit their intake of alcohol, as well as to limit their drinking to certain occasions and/or celebrations. Without alcohol, alcoholics go through a period of withdrawal, similar to that of individual addicted to "hard drug" such as cocaine or heroine, with symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, anxiety, and insomnia. Over time one's tolerance will build, causing an alcoholic to ingest a greater and greater quantity of alcohol in order to appease their physical cravings and experience the "high".
Research shows that the risk of developing alcoholism tends to run in families. Although genes certainly play a role, lifestyle is really the determining factor.