About Alcohol

Alcohol abuse is a diagnosable medical condition characterized by a strong craving for alcohol and/or continued use despite severe adverse consequences. In the United States, about 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder, classified as either alcohol dependence—perhaps better known as alcoholism—or alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism, the more serious of the disorders, is a disease that includes symptoms such as:

  • Craving—A strong need, or urge, to drink.
  • Loss of control—Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  • Physical dependence—Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety after stopping drinking.
  • Tolerance—The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect.

People who are alcoholic often will spend a great deal of their time drinking, making sure they can get alcohol, and recovering from alcohol’s effects, often at the expense of other activities and responsibilities.


Alcoholism is a serious disorder. Those addicted to alcohol may not fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school because of their drinking. They may also put themselves in dangerous situations (like driving under the influence) or have legal or social problems (such as arrests or arguments with family members) due to their drinking.

Like many other diseases, alcoholism is typically considered chronic, meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime.  However, we continue to learn more and more about alcohol abuse and alcoholism; and what we’re learning is changing our perceptions of the disease. However severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from treatment.

How Much Is Too Much?

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism low risk drinking—for healthy adults—is as follows:

  • For men: No more than 4 drinks on any day and no more than 14 drinks per week.
  • For women: No more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 drinks per week.

It is important to note that “low risk” does NOT mean “no risk.” Even within these limits, drinkers can experience problems if they drink too quickly, have health problems, or are older (both men and women over 65 are generally advised to have no more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 drinks per week).

What Counts As a Drink?

In the United States a “standard” drink is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of “pure” alcohol.


To learn more about the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change or to get more information about our alcohol and drug treatment programs, please contact us at 866-242-6670.