This site contains information and resources related to alcohol dependence, a chronic disease that can impact people socially, psychologically, and physically. Explore below to learn more.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

About Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease in which a person craves drinks that contain alcohol and is unable to control their drinking. A person with this disease also needs to drink greater amounts to get the same effect and has withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use. Alcohol dependence affects physical and mental health, and can cause problems with family, friends, and work.

Alcohol dependence is diagnosed using criteria outlined in DSM-IV, the handbook used by healthcare providers to diagnose brain disorders. More recently, with the release of DSM-5, healthcare providers have started using the term alcohol use disorder (AUD). While there is a lot of overlap between alcohol dependence and AUD, there are also some important differences. You can learn more about the symptoms and criteria for each condition here. Please also talk to your healthcare provider.

Personal stories

For these people, their relationship with alcohol needed to change. Watch their personal stories with alcohol dependence here.

These videos are sponsored by Alkermes® and the participants have been compensated. The stories are personal and do not represent all people living with alcohol dependence. The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the participants alone and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your healthcare provider.

What is your drinking pattern?

Taking stock of your alcohol use can be a first step to assess your drinking patterns. The following questionnaire related to alcohol dependence is based on the questions developed by the National Institutes of Health, as part of the criteria for alcohol dependence outlined in DSM-IV. If you would like more information talk to your healthcare provider. You can also print your responses to this questionnaire and take them to your healthcare provider and ask for more information. Answering “yes” to three or more questions in this questionnaire (based on DSM-IV) could be an indication of alcohol dependence. (source)

Begin the questionnaire This questionnaire is not a medical diagnosis, but can be used as a first step to help you think about your drinking patterns and whether there might be a cause for concern. Share these results with your healthcare provider and, together, you and your healthcare provider can determine potential next steps and, if appropriate, discuss all your treatment options. Remember, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before making any decisions or taking action related to your health.

Help along the way

If you are rethinking your relationship with alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. If you are diagnosed with alcohol dependence, treatment could include one, or a combination of the following:

Behavioral therapy: Also known as alcohol counseling, behavioral therapy involves working with your healthcare provider to identify and help modify behaviors that cause problems with drinking.

Psychosocial treatments (interventions): Include structured counseling, motivational enhancement, case management, care-coordination, psychotherapy, and relapse prevention.

Support groups: Meetings that range from just a few people in a rehab facility, small groups in a community center, or groups assembled virtually as part of a larger organization.

Medication: Prescribed by a healthcare provider, there are medications approved to help treat alcohol dependence.

Talk with your healthcare provider about whether treatment is right for you.

Learn more about a treatment option
Healthcare provider discussion guide

Talking with your healthcare provider about alcohol dependence

Do you have questions about your alcohol use? If you think you may need help, or just want more information, talk to your healthcare provider. This discussion guide may offer some ideas on how to start the conversation.

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