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Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that is harmful to the drinker or others. The following situations, occurring repeatedly in a 12-month period, would be indicators of alcohol abuse: -Missing work or skipping child care responsibilities because of drinking

-Drinking in situations that are dangerous, such as before or while driving

-Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for hurting someone while drunk

-Continuing to drink even though there are ongoing alcohol-related tensions with friends and family.

Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a disease. It is chronic, or lifelong, and it can be both progressive and life threatening. Alcoholism is based in the brain. Alcohol's short-term effects on the brain are what cause someone to feel high, relaxed, or sleepy after drinking. In some people, alcohol's long-term effects can change the way the brain reacts to alcohol, so that the urge to drink can be as compelling as the hunger for food. Both a person's genetic makeup and his or her environment contribute to the risk for alcoholism. The following are some of the typical characteristics of alcoholism:

-Craving: a strong need, or compulsion, to drink

-Loss of control: the inability to stop drinking once a person has begun

-Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking

-Tolerance: the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get "high."

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