Alcohol Use And Abuse

Glossary: Alcohol Use And Abuse

Here are definitions of medical terms related to alcohol use and abuse.

Alcohol abuse: A pattern of alcohol use that causes problems in any aspect of a person’s life.

Alcohol dependence (alcoholism): Alcohol dependence, also called “alcoholism,” is a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal disease in which a person is physically dependent on alcohol. The person has strong cravings to drink, withdrawal symptoms when s/he stops drinking, a tolerance to alcohol, and lack of control over his or her drinking.

Alcoholic: A person who is dependent on alcohol and has the disease of alcoholism.

At-risk drinking: Drinking that poses a risk of developing problems. Men: more than 14 drinks per week or more than 4 drinks per sitting. Women: more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks per sitting.

Blackout: A period of amnesia caused by overuse of alcohol. It is different from passing out because in a blackout the person is fully conscious.

Cirrhosis: A disease in which damage to the liver causes a decrease in the liver’s ability to work properly. Excessive alcohol use can cause cirrhosis, which can lead to death.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy: A type of psychotherapy that focuses on 1) changing unproductive thought patterns to help change how you feel and 2) changing and gaining control over unwanted behaviors.

Delirium tremens: A state of confusion accompanied by trembling and hallucinations.

Detoxification: (often called just “detox”): The process of getting alcohol out of the body.

Moderate drinking: Drinking that does not usually cause problems for the drinker or society and is considered low risk. Men: no more than two drinks per day. Women: no more than one drink per day. Over age 65: no more than one drink per day.

Sober: A state in which no alcohol (or other mind-altering substance) has been used.

Sobriety: A life free of alcohol.

Tolerance: Decreased response to alcohol over time, which causes a need to increase the amount of alcohol used to get the same effect.

Withdrawal: Symptoms experienced when drinking alcohol is stopped or reduced significantly.

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