The substance disorders are those where ingesting substances that alter mood, thinking, functioning or behavior. Most induce some form of euphoria or escape from the problems and pressures of life. There are two classes of disorder: abuse and addiction. In abuse, the use of the substance is at will. In addiction, there is a dependency and withdrawal symptoms, there is a need for more and more of the substance in order to get gratification, and there is an inability to quit, despite serious and even catastrophic consequences.
Other factors that are included for a diagnosis of abuse or dependency to be made are: failures to perform major life functions such as parenting or maintaining a job; criminal behavior and sanctions, or legal and health problems of a major magnitude in the past 12 months.
In Abuse, the alcohol is causing negative events, such as public intoxication, drinking and driving, skipping work, not attending classes, fighting and problems in interpersonal relationships that are clearly caused by drinking. The drinking continues despite the negative consequences.
Dependence is addiction. For addiction, there must be tolerance and withdrawal. There is tolerance which leads to more drinking to get the same high or alteration in mood; and there are withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens, headaches, anxiety, and even amnesia.
It is estimated that some 12 percent of American adults have had an alcohol dependence at one time or another. Alcohol dependence has an indentifiable set of signs and symptoms, as well as a progression, which allows it to be classified as a disease.
Alcohol dependency is a syndrome in the DSM-IV-TR meaning that there are distinct elements which make up the disease. They are recognizable clinically and include: tolerance; withdrawal symptoms; increasingly larger amounts are consumed; there is a desire that persists, with repeated failures to cut down on use; time is lost from getting alcohol or from recovering from the effects of drinking; the job, school or social activities are curtailed or stopped because of drinking; knowledge of the physical and psychological harm does not deter from drinking.
Only three of the seven criteria are needed for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Not all patients have the same, or even all of the seven issues.
The term “alcoholism” is frequently used to describe both dependency and abuse. Then there is remission, where the person is not meeting three of the seven criteria, even if drinking continues. Most programs only allow complete abstinence as a condition for diagnosing the individual as being in remission.
The long term effects of alcohol include cardiovascular, liver, pancreatic, nervous system, and malabsorption disorders and diseases. Malabsorption is a disruption of ability to process substances in the digestive system.
Wikipedia Alcohol Dependence
Wikipedia Long Term Alcohol Effects