Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is a conduct disorder that leads to an abuse of alcohol consumption and the problems derived from it.
Abuse in alcohol consumption is a pattern of excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and one or more of the following problems:
- Inability to fulfill important responsibilities related to work, school, or at home because of drinking.
- Drinking in physically dangerous situations such as operating machinery or driving a vehicle.
- Recurring legal problems related to alcohol such as being arrested for drunk driving or causing physical harm to another person while being drunk.
- Having social problems caused or worsened by the effects of alcohol.
The persistent use or abuse of alcohol despite the obvious physical, mental and social problems occasioned by alcohol is a serious problem. It leads to:
- Loss of control: not being able to stop drinking once started
- Withdrawal symptoms: symptoms related to the abrupt cessation of drinking
- Tolerance: needing more and more alcohol to feel the same effects
It is believed that alcoholism affects those persons who have a combination of diverse factors: genetic predisposition, environment and individual psychology such as being impulsive or having low self-esteem. Alcoholism is generally considered to be a chronic illness that has serious medical consequences at all levels: dementia, erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular problems, greater risk of certain cancers and psychiatric illnesses, digestive illnesses such as pancreatitis, hepatic cirrhosis, gestational malformations and numerous other disorders.