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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Q&A: Alcohol dependency
New research says that 3.8 million people in England and Wales are dependent on alcohol, and that a shortfall in funding for alcohol services means many people have to wait for help that they badly need.

BBC News Online examines what it means to dependent on alcohol.

What is alcohol dependency?

For most people drinking alcohol is a recreational activity, and the majority of people manage to drink alcohol without incurring any harmful consequences.

But to be alcohol dependent means that you feel you need to have a drink to help you through certain situations.

For example, some people would not consider socialising without a drink.

Others might use alcohol to help them cope with feelings of depression.

Is it the same as alcoholism?

No. Alcoholics are usually dependent on drinking to handle everything, many people are only dependent on alcohol in certain situations.

Does having a few drinks at a party make me alcohol dependent?

There is nothing wrong at all with wanting to have a few drinks at a party.

The problem comes when the very idea of going without a drink fills you with a sense of dread.

How do you find out if you are alcohol dependent?

The only real way to find out is to put yourself in a position where you would normally want a drink - and see what happens when you deny yourself.

For instance, go to a party and stick to soft drinks.

If you still enjoy yourself, then there is nothing to worry about, but it you feel tense or distressed then you may have a problem.

Is the only answer to stop drinking completely?

Not necessarily. Some people can get their drinking under control themselves.

However, others may need help and advice. Treatment may include detoxification, counselling and/or self-help group support.

What damage can alcohol do?

Alcohol is associated with a range of physical problems, including brain damage, liver damage, heart problems and impotence.

It is also linked to psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and aggression.

What is a sensible amount to drink?

Men should not consistently drink more than four units of alcohol a day. For women the sensible limit is three units a day.

A unit of alcohol is half pint of ordinary strength beer or cider, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits.

Alcohol abuse 'rife and ignored'
12 Jun 03  |  Health

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