Alcoholism is a chronic disorder characterized by dependence on alcohol, repeated excessive use of alcoholic beverages, the development if withdrawal symptoms on reducing or ceasing intake, morbidity that may include cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased ability to function socially and vocationally.
People who are dependent on alcohol lack the ability to voluntarily cut down or stop drinking. They develop a physical tolerance, requiring increasingly larger amounts to achieve the same level of intoxication. Withdrawal symptoms develop, including rapid heartbeat, anxiety, tremors, and even seizures, when they drink less or stop drinking.
An estimated five to 10 percent of male drinkers and three to five percent of female drinkers are dependent on alcohol. People who consume more than 12 drinks a week (women) or 15 drinks a week (men) are more likely to become alcoholic. Men 2-4 times are more likely than women to be alcoholic, as are people who start drinking before age 16.