For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans are alcoholics or have alcohol problems. Alcoholism is a disease with four main features:
- Craving - a strong need to drink
- Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've started
- Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, or shakiness when you don't drink
- Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect
Alcoholism carries many serious dangers. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It can cause damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. Drinking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Alcoholism also increases the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.
If you want to stop drinking, there is help. Start by talking to your health care provider. Medicines, counseling, and support groups may help you to stop drinking.
Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism