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Alcohol Addiction and Misuse: Signs, Causes, and Treatment

Alcohol misuse and addiction can have life-long consequences.1 Despite this, among people 12 and older in 2021, an estimated 60 million engaged in past-month binge drinking while nearly 30 million had an alcohol use disorder.2 Compulsive or otherwise problematic alcohol use can have negative effects on one’s health and well-being, but treatment is available to help people who are ready to quit drinking.8 This page will explore alcohol addiction, how to recognize it, associated dangers, and what is involved in the treatment process.
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What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known by the diagnostic term alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic, relapsing condition characterized by the inability to stop using alcohol despite negative consequences in multiple areas of life.4 AUD may range from mild to severe, with addiction representing the moderate to severe side of the spectrum.4, 5 Other terms that describe AUD in common language include alcohol abuse, alcoholism, or alcohol dependence.4 Though these and other terms, such as alcoholic, are often used in relation to AUD, such terminology can be stigmatizing. As a result, the terms “alcohol addiction” or “alcohol misuse” are preferred when referring to issues with alcohol use.

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Dangers of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol misuse can have serious effects on the person drinking as well as those around them.1 Adverse effects from alcohol can include serious injury and other potentially severe health issues, including: 1, 8

  • Cardiovascular issues (e.g., irregular heartbeat, chronic high blood pressure).
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Weakened immune system and resulting increased risk of pneumonia.
  • Liver damage (such as fatty liver, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatitis).
  • Pancreatitis and other chronic gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • Increase cancer risk (head and neck cancers, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer).
  • The cumulative risk of alcohol poisoning and overdose toxicity.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Effective alcohol addiction treatment that’s tailored to a person’s specific needs can help promote recovery.4 Treatment may combine several therapeutic approaches, including medications, behavioral therapy, and management of any co-occurring mental health issues.10

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Finding help for alcohol addiction does not need to be difficult. American Addiction Centers has compassionate folks ready to take your call 24/7 at to help you learn about treatment options, check your insurance coverage, and answer your questions. Call today and find out how to begin your road to recovery.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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When you call our free helpline, an admissions navigator is there to listen to you, answer any questions you have, and provide the support that you need—all 100% confidentially.
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