What is alcohol abuse? Alcohol abuse is a type of problem drinking in which a person continues to drink alcohol even in the face of health problems or undesired complications at work, at home, or in relationships. Alcoholism, another type of problem drinking, is complicated by a physical addiction to alcohol. Problem drinking is a common problem, affecting approximately 15% of the U.S. population (Source: PubMedHealth). The causes of alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not known, although some risk factors have been identified. For example, people who start drinking alcohol at age 14 or younger tend to have more troubles with alcohol than those who start at age 21 or older. Alcohol problems are most common between the ages of 18 and 29; people age 65 or older are the least likely to have alcohol problems. Alcohol problems are more common in men than in women. Alcohol affects all of your body’s organs and can cause long-term health effects. Alcohol’s effects on your brain account for many of the symptoms of intoxication, including an increased risk of accidents and impaired judgment. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), high blood pressure, heart disease, malnutrition, brain damage, and certain cancers. Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the US. Some people are not aware of the troubles alcohol is causing in their lives; honesty and compassion can help them recognize the problems they are having and assist them in setting personal goals for the future. Treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can involve supervised withdrawal and detoxification, recovery programs, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and certain medications. Although treatments have varying rates of success, many people are able to remain abstinent. Alcohol abuse can have serious, even life-threatening, complications, such as injury, acute alcohol poisoning, and significant medical illness. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide or self harm, persistent vomiting, seizure, slow breathing or not breathing, trauma, vomiting blood, or bloody stool. Seek prompt medical care if you think you might have a problem with alcohol.