Definition of Alcoholism

In a 1992 JAMA article, the Joint Committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) published this definition for alcoholism:

“Alcoholism is a primary chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, mostly denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.”

July 27th, 2011  in Alcoholism 31 Comments »

31 Responses to “Definition of Alcoholism”

  • Jeffery says:

    I have been to alcoholism treatment 3 times in my life. I am currently 44 years old, married with two girls and three grandchildren. I have been attending AA for about a year and I can not seem to stay sober. I am concerened that if AA does not work for me I will not survive my disease of alcoholism and addiction. Do you have any advice?

  • Jammie Melanson says:

    hello there, you dont know me my name is Jammie Melanson, im the 2nd of 3 girls , im 22 but mostly im the daughter of a very sick yet incredible strong patient generous woman that i call/ed my mom. my mother passed away this past march. march 7 2011 to be precise, at the tender age of 45 from severe long-term chronic abuse of alcohol. i know exactly how you feel and what yorur going through, well no i cant say that but i do have a great idea though , and i dont just want to say ”be strong , when theres a will theres a way” cuz really thats useless when dealing with a very severe chronic disease such as alcoholism. through out the years when i was watching my mom slowly killing herself .. i learned a thing or two.. i know what ur daughters feel , i realise how hard stopping is , i know what to say and not say to someone in your position.. what can truly help you .. i promised myself to help whoever wanted to be helped get sober and you are now on this list… please let me help you, make you realise what really matters and help you on this chapter of your life, you cant do this alone and i am gonna stand by your side , even if/when you relapse . you didnt send your post on the internet for nothing.. ill be there with/for you. i hope to hear fr u again , sinceerly .. Jammie.

  • Sarah says:

    Jefffery, I am sad not to see any comments to your post since alcoholism is something that effects sooo many people. I would not consider myself an alcoholic but i have abused alcohol so many times intentionally as an escape and am now not drinking alcohol at all. I am not educated medically and cannot really give advice but i wanted to at least share how i deal with it…

    i think some people have an addictive personality or they do not.
    i do just like many sufferers of alcoholism.
    i have obsesive thoughts and must always kind of be “obsessed” or preoccupied with somethings. basically nowadays when i have any free time i am obsessed with healthy eating and healthy life style. i look up recipes all the time and i count calories and search for organic food and superfoods. i jog on the treadmill. even though spending so much of my time concerned with healthy foods and going for walks and jogs, i would have to say it is healthier than obsessing over alcohol. i hope you are able to take your life day by day and do your best with addiction. god bless you and your family.

  • Tony says:


    You have my sympathy. I am a 44 year-old recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 6 months and am doing well. I went to rehab, am taking Antabuse and that has really worked for me.

    AA does not work for everyone. Many people who stop drinking do so on their own without help. This is a fact, not my opinion – just google it. Perhaps the treatments that you mentioned weren’t suited to your personality, or perhaps you just weren’t ready to quit at the time? Please try some other treatments. You will survive if you really want to. Have you thought about Antabuse or some other medication? Please don’t give up. Go to your doctor and see what she/he can do for you.

    I hope things work out for you.

  • Adam f says:

    Work the steps. The only way to achieve permanent sobriety is to complete the steps as outlined in the big book of alcoholics anonymous.

  • Austen says:


    It sounds like you’ve been sincerely trying to overcome that habit and it’s been a difficult challenge. I’m sad to see that nobody has answered you here. Let me first of all say that I get to help many men just like you. I am part of a Christ-centered addictions program called Reformers Unanimous and I actually am the director of the jail portion of that program in our area. I’ve had men who’ve come into our program having tried seeminlgy everything without lasting success.

    If you believe in God, then I would love to share some things with you that you may have never heard or truly understood before. Many men and women who’ve come to the “end of their rope” so to speak because of addictions have found what they were looking for through Reformers Unanimous. If you think it’s worth a try and you would like to know more then you can call me at (952) 465-5886. There is hope for you!

  • janieh says:

    Are you an Alcoholic? The same songs will coninue to play if you don,t change the tune

  • Steven says:

    Good morning Jeffery. I too am an alcoholic and have been sober for 16 months. This is my first real attempt at sobriety and AA has been working for me. What has worked for me are the following: I attend regular AA meetings. I have a sponsor who works with me on the 12 steps of the program. I am of service, ie. make coffee, chair meetings, greet and work with newcomers; as much as possible. Studying our Big Book has also been vital to my recovery. I also surround myself with others who have long term sobriety. Like it is said, “hang with the winners”. What has ultimately aided me in staying sober is my belief in a Higher Power who I choose to call God. Jeffery, alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful, but AA has been the solution for me and millions of other people. THERE IS HOPE! One day at a time and sometimes one minute at a time is what I live by. I’m not sure I have any advice other than this suggestion, throw yourself in to the program if you are ready and willing and amazing things can happen. At least that is my experience.

  • Shelly Humbert says:

    You have to want to stop. You have to admit you are powerless and that your life is unmanageable. You have to believe that a Higher Power, whatever you choose that to be, is the only thing that can help you. You have to quit trying to control, admit defeat, and be absolutely willing to do whatever it takes to not take another drink. Obsessionscan be controlled. Cravings only last about 10 seconds. Call another alcoholic. Go to 90 meetings in 90 days. Find a sponsor, work the steps, go to meetings and just don’t drink!

  • Barb says:

    I can completely relate to you, I’m 46 and have been battling this demon for 34 years. When I’m sober and I think about it, it scares me how I open that door and allow that to take over. One thing it has also done to me is I’ve become more and more self destructive. I’m a very inwardly strong person. I’ve endured allot of unreal crap in my life. I became dependent upon booze at the age of 12 to cope with my life growing up .Then learning to survive as a functioning alcoholic I tried A.A. Though I must say I didn’t much like sitting around with a bunch of strangers dwelling on my past and the things I would do while under the influence.and calling it my disease, Holding on to it, I’ve come to realize why I drink and am dealing with the childhood crap through a mental health counselor. I know the name of the counselling sounds insulting at least to me, but that is kind of dumb when you think about the state that booze put a person in and the impression they give and I just keep on doing it. I think mental health sounds about right and in order for me to get into this type of program I need their referral.
    I just learned how to use the internet and after years of literally spending hours on the phone and mountain biking to different treatment programs to see if they might know of a government funded program. I really did try hard, but it just seemed like I was getting the run around. Because I can’t drive anymore from getting an impaired I’d get frustrated then drink. I did recently find a program and you may want to Google it is called Phoenix Drug and Alcohol. Anyways don’t give up I know from experience that it doesn’t seem worth it at times, but you are worth it sounds like you have a beautiful family. I only have one son he is 19 now and just graduated. I’m pretty disappointed in myself for not facing this head on sooner,but I’m not going to beat myself up because of it. All I can do is be honest with myself and face what is causing me to drink. I been researching alcoholism on the internet, you should check it out. I know I owe it to myself and my son to eliminate this crap out of my life and let him see it happen so he dosen’t make this wrong choice in his life. Try and think about the good things you have done in your life and all the good things that will come from this when you can spend quality time with that family of yours Take Care.

  • jenifer brassington says:

    my big worry is that i am upsetting my family.been prescribed chlordia but it hasnt stopped me.very wobley and not a happy manage to chieve something ever day with great difficulty.legs wobble balance is rubbish.frightened of falling and making a total idiot of myself.jen

  • Robert says:

    Some people obsess about how many steps they take from their front door to their car, some people obsess about how many times they wash their hands, and then their is us, those who obsess about alcohol. I don’t like the term “disease”, even though alcoholism has a lot of the same characteristics that a disease has. Alcoholism is an Obsessive-Compulsive disorder that never goes away, but is treatable through medications, and/or life changes, and/or AA. Everybody responds to various types of treatment differently, AA and a sponsor works for some, drastic life changes work for some, medications work for some. Obviously the severity of the alcoholism will outline what treatment will be needed for the person. Remember, there are those who just drink too much, and then there are those who obsess over it. Labeling it as a disease provides a scapegoat for the behavior that goes along with it, you may be sick, but you also need to be held accountable for your wrongs, even if you were in a raging blackout.

  • john says:

    12 steps, in all our affairs-one day at a time.

  • Chuck says:

    I empathize. Evidence readily available to everyone tells us this IS a disease we’re fighting, yet, convincing me of that with sufficient force to motivate me to not drink or to seek escape in some fashion from the mental obsession plaguing me at the time, seems worthless within itself. I need more than that. Fighting a disease that causes me to isolate myself is a cruel dilemma. The ideas I’ve formed in my mind over many years of active alcoholism all seem to lead to the same result, that being; a dark place where I’m struggling alone with deep feelings that lead me to a feeling of complete hopelessness.

    I have realized relief from this condition a few times in my life for various periods of time. When conditions reach a breaking point and I’m forced to get outside this thing long enough to seek some help, I’ve been blessed to find it. A few times through people involved in religious programs that are seeking a spiritual life and a few other times through AA. Bottom line, I need direction from something or someone outside myself that I perceive as “bigger than my thinking”. To the degree I can allow myself to trust and follow the direction offered from the outlets that come into my life when I am searching, is the degree I’ve found, to which I can get relief from this disease. I’m not a religious fanatic, but I hope to become a spiritual one someday. Ultimately, coming to believe in a power Greater Than Myself and putting into action a few suggestions that feel to me to be from this source, creates the only real shelter from the storm I can find today. Keep asking, keep searching my brother, and you will find what you need.

  • r.craig hess says:

    hey gang: when i think of what could have been ,i gring. Since the age of 11yo. i have been injesting something ie; alcohol,nicotine,ephederine,benodiazapines and caffine.I’m 54yrs old now and i’m 6 months out of my very first meaningful 30 day rehap.I attend AA meetings on a regular basis 6 days a week a total of 7 meetings.i am currently studying the big book and i’m involved in service and a home group(s). I do not have a sponser,i do have an interest in getting a sponser to work the steps with me ,this will take time ,i need to find the right person.I’ve been searching for this “right person” and when i find him i’ll work the steps his way! Being an addict my whole entire life was/is a unique problem. I now know i have certain issues i never realized before. These issues are sex,love,honesty,complusion,lust pornography,i am a dangerous human being but things are in check right now. Your thoughts….

  • angela o rourke says:

    my husband is a cronic acholic. he drinks bottle of whiskey a day. nothing matters to him but drink. he had a stroke in 2009. but is fine. he drank 2 bottles of whiskey the day before he had the stroke. can i help hime

  • ALIZE says:



  • David says:

    The alanon groups are world wide too, go there and ask them to help you deal with the effects of this, they also thrive on your letting them help you. (same 12 steps too)

  • jenny says:

    The program isn’t supposed to work for you… you are supposed to work for it.

    As long as you find a good home group (people with long lengths of sobriety), and be “willing to take the steps we took and are willing to go to any length to recover”… then AA will work. But like I said… you have to work for it…

  • Michael R. says:

    Meetings are not the program of AA they are where you meet people who work the 12 step program and the only ones who work the program with honesty are the ones who realize they are going to die if they don’t if you don’t think you’re going to die from alcoholism then what is all the fuss about? if you are going to die then work the 12 steps out of the big book with a sponsor.its that lllsimple

  • Just Another Drunk says:

    AA is not the be all end all panacea of recovery. It is a design for living that has been the most successful in maintaining long term continuous sobriety for real, chronic alcoholics.

    According the the tenants of AA as written in 1939, the real alcoholic has two options: 1. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or 2: To live by spiritual principals.

    If you are an alcoholic you get to pick 1 or 2.

    What shall your selection be?

  • Dolores says:

    You have to be as committed to recovery (even more so) than you are to drinking. It sometimes takes longer than one year in AA before the miracle sets in. I urge you to keep going, daily if necessary. It sounds as if you need a strict, reliable sponsor. You need to pick one that has good sobriety, explains what needs to be done simply but sternly and gets you working the steps. Step 3 was a big one for me, it was not until I fully understood and accepted that step that I continued to remain sober. It took me two years. I also went to rehab for 30 days where I learned a lot about myself and then jumped into AA confused, but wanted a new life, and remained. Now at nine years sober, AA is a necessary part of my recovery, the less I go the more alcohol pops into my mind. If this is not working for you , you may want to consider long term rehab, and then remain in it for as long as it takes, up to a year if necessary. You have to learn to be a new person, starting all over. Life is not extraordinary, bit it is good, and NEVER do I want to ruin it and my familys life by drinking. DO NOT MAKE ANY EXCUSES.

  • David S. says:

    You have to not want to drink more than you want to drink. That is the bottom line in the simplest terms.

  • petra says:

    Hello, I feel sympathy for you. I know what it is like to struggle, without having any hope. I am myself not an alcoholic, but I grew up with one. I cannot possibly understand what alcoholism means and what it does to a person. I just personally believe that it is a demon. I am thinking maybe finding a trustworthy therapist or a group might help. And it is a long process, that requires self commitment. Each day would be difficult, but as you go further it might get some easier. I am struggling with growing up with an abusive alcoholic. I suffer every day with my feelings of inadaqecy. I have struggled like this for past thirteen years. I always try to pray that God will lead me in the right path. Try asking God to guide you on the path that’s for you.I wish you very well, and I am sorry for my English. I am not originally from an English speaking country.

  • charles h says:

    can a person have alcoholism without drinking alcohol, alcohol call a desease just for political reasons,insurance etc.what makes it a desease.

  • julia says:

    I thought the demons where over when i was sober througout my pregnancy and the first weeks of breastfeeding…..i slowly started to drink again( thinking i would keep it under control)and that quickly changed to every couple of days…My daughter is now 6 months most days i feel like a million bucks i dont smoke, i work out and try to eat as healthy as i can……Than there are the odd days( 2 days a week) where i get that mental obsession…If i think about it theres no turning back!!! I hate it and it scares me! I am so sick of letting myself down because i am so convinced to quit.. The first months of my baby being born i would have somewhat control and find myself responsable cause i was in bed at 10….Now, well i found myself knocking on my neighbours door the other day for more alcohol?? at 12 am…………I hate myself when i drink since i have no judgment and i totally change……..Even alcoholics can have somewhat control over there personalities..I can’t drink i make a fool of myself…………… Thankfully my husband does not drink so i can count on him for support…… I want to do it for my baby girl…..I am an amazing mother and will quit……. I am not the typical alcoholic. I don’t drink everyday and can go long stretches ( week or 2) than bang binge drinking……………………. 🙁

  • Jerry H. says:

    Hi, My name is Jerry. I am 59 years old and HAD been drinking heavily for 40 yrs plus. Everyone reacts differently to various treatments and I for one had to check into an in house treatment center. I was there for 6 and a half months before I even began to get over my cravings. I can assure you if you WANT to quit and that is the driving force, you CAN! There are many steps to take but you have to WANT it bad enough. I could write a book on the subject but there is not enough room here. Some people have to hit rock bottom as they say which is what happened to me. I have been sober for 14 years and now am a certified drug and alcohol counselor. It is possible. I do not even want to drink any longer. It is all about re-programing your way of thinking. At least for me. GOD Bless

  • achmed says:

    Rational Recovery is an option for folks that don’t or won’t work the 12 steps. Carl Jung said a religious awakening was the best thing for substance abuse.

  • Joe C. says:

    How’s it going, r.craig hess? Have you been able to stay sober?

  • HL says:

    I live with my bf for 4 years. He is now 34 but he have been drinking since 9 years old.

    To those who drink, I trust they know very well how much pain and suffering they bough to their loved one. How much self destruction they have created in their life and people around them. How often they lied and they denied and they tried to make you feel you are the cause of all these at some point.

    I am much poorer, drained and tired, numb and sad, low self confident, no friends (everyone is tired of my same sad story), lost faith in god (because he is not giving his best to help him to stop drinking), not able to perform at work, not able to support my mum due to my bf keep screw up jobs and endanger my job.

    He used every way to aid him to support his drinking (he call it manage) so he can go on drinking and function but it is not possible he cannot stop be it 5am or 10am or 12moon or 4pm or 10pm… He drink more and more. He even run away from home for few days just to drink in peace. Then he start to flirt and contact women to flirt with them.

    Now I am telling myself, if getting high and enjoy that feeling is stronger than wanting to stop then may be I should also make my choice.

    I do not want to live with a alcoholic for the next 30-40 years of such sad life, 4 years is already like stuck in hell. I do not wish for a future like this. How can I ever let my own kid being born in a family of alcoholic and see the sad life slowly affect their growing up and affect them mentally and physically, how can the kid ever be happy in such life and family? How can the kid grow up normal and be a good healthy person in such family?

    No kid deserve to be born in such sad family. It is just not healthy and not normal. Picture they have to start to babysit the drunk and manage their own life at the same time …feeling ashamed of their own family and put so much energy until they cannot focus on their life and career and loved one.

    This disease hurt every generation in a family and only one person willing to be strong enough, less selifish, and want to stop it bad enough to make everyone life better for 30-50 over years.

    Just because some one love you, do not take advantage and do not make use of your love one. This is very wrong. They can be supportive but there should be a limit. When you are drinking and having that high pleasure someone is suffering because of you.

    May be the only way is to leave them and let them live their own life be it homeless or jobless or died drinking.

  • HL says:

    I hope that there is a prison in every country for alcoholic. I think that is could be the best funded reform since all rehab (expensive and short, not working well) and treatment are not really helping at all and too short for them.

    Family can put them there and live their life, and doctor will decide how long they should stay in there (jury should be formed by doctors).

    They should be isolated from alcohol competely for a few years before they are allowed to be release, work for their meals, enjoy spirture teaching, and lean to have a new focus in life.

    I pray one day all govt will consider to put this together.

    We need more than just a doctor or rehab. Nothing is working.

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