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What is 'alcohol dependency' or 'alcoholism'?

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What is 'alcohol dependency' or 'alcoholism'?

Alcohol dependency is when the body becomes accustomed to having alcohol present, and when it not present you get a craving for a drink. Some people are more susceptible to this than others and again the reason is probably in your genes - something to do with the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.

The key thing about being alcohol dependent is that:

Firstly, alcohol starts to completely take over your life, and eventually becomes the only important thing in your life - more important than your job, your friends and even your family or your children - it is a one way road to no-where.

Secondly, it is absolutely possible to recover from alcohol dependency, but, on the whole, it is not possible to return to social drinking, once a full blown dependency develops then the choice is usually between complete lifelong abstinence, or oblivion.

Research has shown that there can be a genetic tendency to develop alcohol dependency. This does not mean that you can only become alcohol dependent if it runs in the family, but if you have close relatives who were alcoholics then your chances of developing alcohol dependency are very much higher.

There are many other substances that cause dependency - the most important is nicotine, this kills millions of people every year. Other substances that cause dependency are drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Only about one third of people with alcohol dependency will develop liver disease - there is probably a separate set of genes that determines this. This is a really important piece of information, because every person with alcohol dependency will have had drinking partners who perhaps have drunk more for longer but may never get bad liver disease because they do not have the liver disease genes.

Similarly it is entirely possible to drink heavily enough to die from liver disease without ever developing alcohol dependency - they are two quite different problems related to alcohol that can occur together or separately. Most members of the general public do not realise this, even many doctors do not realise this.

The following 2 sections include advice from Alcohol Concern.

Could I have a alcohol dependency?

The first thing to consider is how much you actually drink. Try to compile a drinking diary of what you had last week. Be careful to include all the drinks and remember that at home a glass of wine or spirits is often bigger than a pub measure! Was this a typical week? If you are drinking above the recommended limits you should think about cutting down.

However don't worry! On special occasions such as the Christmas and new year period we all over indulge. Drinking a little bit extra at these times is unlikely to have a long term health effect.

If you are worried that drinking may be becoming a problem for you, warning signs can be:

If these are only isolated incidents you may just need to think more carefully about reducing the number of drinks you have and when you decide to have them. However if many of the other signs given below apply, you may be getting into a pattern of problem drinking.

Signs of more serious alcohol dependency

These are some more serious signs

You are likely to have a definite problem with alcohol or have become addicted if you: