Alcohol misuse

Moderate alcohol intake is, for many people, an acceptable and enjoyable part of life. However, those who drink to excess, or are particularly vulnerable to the unwanted effects of alcohol, may experience a wide range of medical and psychiatric problems.

Alcohol misuse may be defined in terms of:

• quantity of alcohol intake

• presence of dependency

• alcohol-related disability, whether physical, mental or social.

There is no agreed definition of 'alcoholism'. Patients with obvious drink problems often seek to avoid the issue by diversion into discussion about whether they are or are not 'an alcoholic', but these are, by their very nature interminable, as the word means different things to different people. The words are used here as a useful shorthand only.

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