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Alcoholism 101

This article is sponsored by Harbor Village Detox & Treatment Center

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 56.4 percent of adults 18 and over admit to having consumed alcohol within the past month. For some, however, drinking leads to a dependence on alcohol, which can destroy every aspect of their lives. Here is how to know when drinking becomes dangerous.

How to determine if there's a problem

The NIAAA has a list of questions on its website that are commonly used to determine whether or not a person has a problem with alcohol. In summary, a person is said to be abusing alcohol if he has problems controlling his drinking, if he needs to drink more and more to get the desired effects of alcohol and if his drinking has interfered with any aspects of his life, among other factors.

What you should know

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that about 12.7 million American adults suffer from a dependence on alcohol. Alcohol is also listed as a contributing factor to about 30 percent of fatal car accidents, and it is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States.


Like other addictive behaviors, alcoholism appears to have a genetic link, but it is not limited to people with a family history. However, there is no definitive cause of alcoholism, although many factors are thought to contribute. The U.S. National Library of Medicine cites that a genetic predisposition along with environmental factors may cause people to abuse alcohol, particularly if the person starts drinking regularly at a young age.


According to the Mayo Clinic, people suffering from alcoholism may exhibit the following symptoms that can range from mild to severe:

  • Excessive focus on getting and consuming alcohol
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking
  • Continuing to drink even when it interferes with relationships and work
  • Drinking in unsafe situations, like while driving
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal when no alcohol is in the system – these may include nausea, vomiting, shaking and sweating

Risk Factors

One major risk factor for alcohol abuse is a family history. Other risk factors include a habit of drinking steadily over a long period of time, those who started drinking at an early age, those whose social interactions revolve around drinking, and those who suffer from depression and other mental health disorders, and more.

A breakdown of alcohol-related statistics by city: 

New York: Drinking excessively causes about 100,000 hospitalizations and 1,500 deaths annually.
Chicago: In 2011, 19.7 percent of teens admitted to having engaged in binge drinking.
Boston: In 2012, 36,000 hospital patient encounters, including emergency department visits, observational stays and inpatient hospitalizations, were related to alcohol abuse.
Philadelphia: From 2003-2011, alcohol related deaths made up 2.7 percent of all deaths in the city.
Atlanta: Alcohol was cited as the reason for treatment for one half of all treatment program admissions in 2012.
Baltimore: In 2009, 24 percent of all deaths from intoxication were caused by alcohol consumption.
Hartford: An estimated 40 percent of deaths from auto accidents between Christmas and New Year's are alcohol related.
Pittsburgh: Alcohol is cited as the cause in 25 percent of overdose deaths.
Minneapolis: Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 70 people per day were pulled over for impaired driving.
Las Vegas: In 2012, 15.1 percent of adults admitted to binge drinking, and 6.5 percent admitted to drinking heavily.
Tampa: Of traffic related fatalities of those aged 15 to 24, 41 percent had alcohol in their system.

Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver. Her work can be found at


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