Kiefer, Falk Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Israel, Yedy Department of Pharmacology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Martino, Steven Yale Psychiatric Institute, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:August 2016
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- Absorption of alcohol
- Effects on the nervous system
- Effects on the liver
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
- Early identification of alcohol abuse
- Genetic factors
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The repeated and/or excessive use of alcohol (ethanol) that continues despite negative physical, psychiatric, or social consequences. Alcoholism is characterized by consuming alcohol more often, in larger amounts, or over longer periods than intended (Fig. 1); persistent desire or craving of alcohol; and physical consequences of chronic alcohol consumption, especially alcohol tolerance and alcohol withdrawal symptoms during abstinence. Although the initial motivation to consume alcohol results mainly from the expected euphoric effects of alcohol, cue-induced implicit responses, habit, and relief from withdrawal drive continued consumption in the long term. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks alcohol as one of the primary causes of the global burden of disease in industrialized countries. It is suggested that alcoholism results from an interaction of chronic alcohol exposure, individual genetic makeup, and environmental perturbations over time. This complex gene–environment interaction results in a larger heterogeneity among subjects suffering from alcoholism. See also: Addiction and addictive disorders; Genetics
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