If alcohol is affecting your life and relationships — you find it’s hard to control how much you drink or you depend on alcohol to get through the day — you may be among the 17.6 million adult Americans, 1 of 12, who have an alcohol-use disorder, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. That’s the medical term for what people commonly call alcoholism. The council reports that 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent has abused alcohol or is dependent on it, and more than half of all adults have a family history of alcohol-use disorder. Varying degrees exist, from mild to severe, depending on the number of symptoms a person experiences. But a powerful craving for alcohol, despite its consequences, is common across that spectrum.
The possible health effects of alcohol abuse include an increased risk for several types of cancer, liver cirrhosis, heart problems, stroke, stomach bleeding, a weakened immune system, brain damage, mood changes and more. Heavy drinking also increases the risk of death from car crashes and various injuries. More than 88,000 deaths each year have an alcohol-related cause, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But the disorder doesn’t need to be fatal. It can be difficult to quit and relapses may occur. But behavioral therapy, medication and support from family, friends and others in the same situation, such as members of Alcoholics Anonymous, have been effective in helping many to stop drinking.
— By the Washington Post.