Alcohol Dependence

Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner and Sarina Beth Straussner

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Alcohol Dependence


Millions of individuals use alcohol every day; however, not everyone experiences a problem due to such use. It is therefore helpful to conceptualize alcohol use as ranging on a continuum from nonproblematic social use (e.g., a glass of wine with dinner) to alcohol misuse (e.g., a one-time incident of binge drinking), to abuse (e.g., excessive use of alcohol that results in a negative impact on the life of the individual and those around him or her, such as frequent driving under the influence of alcohol), and finally, to dependence or addiction to alcohol (e.g., a chronic disorder that may require physical detoxification and/or formal treatment). The term alcohol dependence is synonymous with the commonly used term alcoholism, or the compulsive use of alcohol, and implies a progressive deterioration of the individual’s social, physical, and mental status combined with the inability to stop using alcohol even when wishing to do so. Although the professional literature on alcohol dependence problems is extensive and can be found in almost every country in the world, the terminology used is often confusing, and there is a tremendous overlap with literature on topics such as alcohol-related problems, substance use disorders, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and addiction. Research studies in the United States indicate a general decrease in the proportions of individuals with “pure” alcohol dependence and an increase among those using multiple substances. Consequently, the topic of alcohol dependence needs to be considered within the context of the literature on abuse and dependence of a variety of other chemical substances as well as other addictions, such as gambling. It also needs to take into account co-occurring mental disorders; age, gender, and sexual identity of users; socioeconomic and psychological issues; family dynamics; and ethnocultural factors. Finally, research and treatment focusing on alcohol dependence must be viewed within the context of governmental policies, which vary over time and different locations.

Article.  8519 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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