©Arlene Taylor PhD

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the United States. According to Donna Israel PhD, estimates are that 70% of males and 61% of females drink alcohol. Approximately 1 in 5 males and 1 in 7 females ingest beyond social drinking.

Moderation is defined as:

  • Females - One 12-oz beer or 4 oz of wine
  • Males - Two 12-oz beers or 8 oz of wine

Problem drinking is defined as: 

  • Females - 2 or more drinks per day or more than 4 oz of wine
  • Males - Three or more drinks per day or more than 8 oz of wine

Drinking to intoxication is highly associated with abuse, assaults, knifings, and murder. Risk factors for developing alcohol dependence include genetic predisposition

  • 73% genetic risk for early alcohol dependence
  • 30% genetic risk for late alcohol dependence

Smoking has been found to be a pre-cursor for alcohol dependence. Individuals in alcohol recovery who also smoke, tend do better in the longterm when they address smoking and alcohol concurrently.

A study in Issues in Mental Health Nursing (2004) showed that the following difficulties emerge during alcohol addiction:

  • Self-deception
  • Guilt, anxiety, depression
  • Unhealthy preoccupation with alcohol



  • Tend to drink to relax, unwind, and feel better about themselves.

  • Are at higher risk for liver damage from drinking the same amounts of alcohol as compared to males (e.g., 12-year study showed liver problems when averaging 7-13 drinks per week).

  • Are more prone to brain shrinkage and overall brain damage (e.g., have more brain shrinkage even if start drinking later in life and consume less lifetime alcohol amounts).

  • Alcohol abuse-induced brain damage tends to occur in the frontal cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, corpus callosum, and temporal lobes.

  • Tend to be more susceptible to alcohol-related degenerative skeletal disease and heart diseases.

  • Are especially vulnerable to one or more co-existing psychiatric disorders when alcohol dependent:

    • 48% have mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder
    • 38% have anxiety disorders
    • 23% have personality disorders

Note: 40% had no pre-existing psychiatric disorder before the addiction to alcohol.


  • Tend to drink more and do so in order to relax, unwind, feel better about themselves, increase their sense of competitiveness, escape current problems and inner conflicts, and to mask feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and ins.

  • 12-year study showed liver problems when averaging 14-27 drinks per week.

  • Have a 2-3 times the lifetime risk for alcohol dependence (rates may be much higher in Japan since female access to alcohol is more restricted).