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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Alcohol Dependence
      Category : Health Centers > Alcoholism

Alcohol Dependence

Alternate Names : Alcoholism, Alcohol Addiction, Alcohol Abuse

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Alcohol dependence is a chronic pattern of alcohol abuse. An alcoholic gets used to the effects of alcohol and requires more alcohol to get the desired effect. This is called tolerance. A person with alcohol dependence may experience an uncontrollable need for alcohol.

What is going on in the body?

Alcohol is a depressant. At a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, thought, judgment and restraint are affected. At a level of 0.1%, motor skills become clumsy. When the blood alcohol level reaches 0.2%, the entire area of the brain that controls motor function is negatively affected. Alcohol also affects the parts of the brain that control emotions and behavior. At 0.3%, the person is likely to be confused and stuporous. An individual at a blood alcohol level of 0.4% or higher may go into a coma. If blood alcohol levels exceed 0.5%, an individual might choke on vomit or stop breathing.

Prolonged alcohol use can actually alter the genes in the brain. People with alcoholism may have impaired memory, poor concentration, and inability to focus after a distraction.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

No one knows for sure what causes alcohol abuse and dependence. Factors that increase a person's chance of becoming dependent on alcohol include:

  • frequent social situations that encourage drinking
  • childhood history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorder
  • personality disorders
  • one or both parents dependent upon alcohol
  • alcohol abuse by a young adult that begins as weekend or evening drinking


    Next section


    Alcohol Dependence: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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