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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
descent into alcoholism/chaos/madness etc
▪ his descent into drug abuse
the stigma of alcoholism/mental illness etc
▪ The stigma of alcoholism makes it difficult to treat.
▪ Conditions such as diabetes, heart complaints, multiple sclerosis and alcoholism should be declared.
▪ It also occurs in alcoholism, diabetic ketoacidosis, and in patients taking antacids which bind phosphate in the gut.
▪ Many damaging consequences can result from being a heavy drinker but alcoholism does not come simply from drinking too much.
▪ Moon died in 1978, after an overdose of the prescribed drug he was taking to ease himself out of alcoholism.
▪ The authors of the study conclude that the flushing response probably deters individuals from drinking-or from drinking enough to trigger alcoholism.
▪ Their love of wine leads to raised levels of alcoholism, for one thing, which balances out the supposed benefits.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Alcoholism \Al"co*hol*ism\, n. [Cf. F. alcoolisme.] (Med.) A diseased condition of the system, brought about by the continued use of alcoholic liquors.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"disease of alcohol addiction," 1852, from alcohol + -ism, or else from Modern Latin alcoholismus, coined in 1852 by Swedish professor of medicine Magnus Huss (1807-1890) to mean what we now would call "alcohol poisoning." In earlier times, alcoholism would have been habitual drunkenness or some such term.


n. 1 (context pathology English) A chronic disease caused by compulsive and uncontrollable consumption of alcoholic beverages, leading to addiction and deterioration in health and social functioning. 2 (context pathology English) Acute alcohol poisoning.

  1. n. Habitual intoxication; prolonged and excessive intake of alcoholic drinks leading to a breakdown in health and an addiction to alcohol such that abrupt deprivation leads to severe withdrawal symptoms [syn: alcohol addiction, inebriation, drunkenness]

  2. an intense persistent desire to drink alcoholic beverages to excess [syn: dipsomania, potomania]


Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex among others. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, an irregular heart beat, liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Generally women are more sensitive to alcohol's harmful physical and mental effects than men.

Both environmental factors and genetics are associated with alcoholism with about half the risk attributed to each. A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves. Environmental factors include social, cultural, and behavioral influences. High stress levels, anxiety, as well as inexpensive easily accessible alcohol increases risk. People may continue to drink partly to prevent or improve symptoms of withdrawal. A low level of withdrawal may last for months following stopping. Medically, alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness. Both questionnaires and certain blood tests may detect people with possible alcoholism. Further information is then collected to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention of alcoholism is possible by regulating and limiting the sale of alcohol, taxing alcohol to increase its cost, and providing inexpensive treatment. Treatment may take several steps. Because of the medical problems that can occur during withdrawal, alcohol detoxification should be carefully controlled. One common method involves the use of benzodiazepine medications, such as diazepam. This can be either given while admitted to a health care institution or occasionally while a person remains in the community with close supervision. Other addictions or mental illness may complicate treatment. After detoxification support such as group therapy or support groups are used to help keep a person from returning to drinking. One commonly used form of support is the group Alcoholics Anonymous. The medications acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone may also be used to help prevent further drinking.

The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2010 there were 208 million people with alcoholism worldwide (4.1% of the population over 15 years of age). In the United States about 17 million (7%) of adults and 0.7 million (2.8%) of those age 12 to 17 years of age are affected. It is more common among males and young adults, becoming less common in middle and old age. It is the least common in Africa at 1.1% and has the highest rates in Eastern Europe at 11%. Alcoholism directly resulted in 139,000 deaths in 2013 up from 112,000 deaths in 1990. A total of 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are believed to be due to alcohol. It often reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years. In the United States it resulted in economic costs of $224 billion USD in 2006. Many terms, some insulting and others informal, have been used to refer to people affected by alcoholism including: tippler, drunkard, dipsomaniac, and souse. In 1979, the World Health Organization discouraged the use of "alcoholism" due to its inexact meaning, preferring "alcohol dependence syndrome".

Usage examples of "alcoholism".

Professor von Bunge, whose name is honoured by all students of the action of drugs, has satisfied himself that alcoholism in the father is a great cause of incapacity to nurse in daughters.

The question of alcoholism is not one of the abuse of a good thing, here and there injuring those who take it to excess, but is a national question which affects the entire community, abstainers, and drinkers, men, women and children, present and to come.

This newer interpretation of chronic alcoholism has the very important practical corollary of encouraging us to the belief, which is frequently justifiable, that if the chronic intoxication ceases, the individual may completely or all but completely recover, as would not be the case if the fine structure of his brain had been actually destroyed.

It is true, indeed, that according to a celebrated observer, Professor von Bunge, the influence of alcoholism in preceding generations is such that the daughters of such a stock are mostly unable to nurse their children.

Both directly and indirectly, therefore, the employments that withdraw women from domestic pursuits are likely to increase alcoholism, and, it may be added, to increase its greatest potency for evil, namely its influence on the health of the stock.

Part of the foregoing argument has rested upon the fact, only too definitely, variously and frequently proved, that alcoholism in women prejudices the performance of their supreme functions.

The children of such persons are degenerate also, and as the class is numerous and fertile there is here a social problem which is not primarily a problem in alcohol, but is accidentally connected therewith simply because the proneness to alcoholism is a symptom of the degeneracy.

Professor Pearson has omitted to enquire in a single case whether the alcoholism or the offspring came first.

The Report has no scientific basis whatever and has been riddled with criticism by expert students of every kind, including not merely students of alcoholism but also Professor Alfred Marshall of Cambridge, the greatest English-speaking economist of the time, who has shown that there are no grounds for the assumptions made by Professor Pearson in that part of his argument which is based upon the economic efficiency of drinking and non-drinking parents.

The interested reader should refer to the Proceedings of the Twelfth International Congress on Alcoholism held in London in 1909.

The thing is, I never learned anything about alcoholism in school or residency training.

Knowledge of alcoholism would have saved me an awful lot of suffering.

It came from the alcoholism, the anxiety and the fear, and I could never get enough.

The technical expertise is still there, but the alcoholism does another kind of damage.

Physicians have a greater incidence of alcoholism, and they also have a higher incidence of getting hooked on medications like Talwin and Demerol and other injectable opiates because of their greater access to them.