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n. the syndrome due to physical dependence on alcohol, such that sudden deprivation may cause withdrawal symptoms – tremor, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions (see delirium tremens). The risk of alcoholism for an individual depends on genetic and environmental factors. Its prevalence in any given society is closely linked to the price of alcohol and the availability of the substance. Usually several years’ heavy drinking is needed for addiction to develop, with a wide range from one to 40 years. Alcoholism impairs intellectual function, physical skills, memory, and judgment: social skills, such as conversation, are preserved until a late stage. Heavy consumption of alcohol also causes cardiomyopathy, peripheral neuropathy, cirrhosis of the liver, and enteritis. Treatment is usually provided on an out-patient basis, in specialist units for detoxication or medical wards. If there are complicating psychiatric problems detoxication may be part of psychiatric treatment. Psychological aspects of treatment include helping the patient to understand the psychological pressures that led to his or her heavy drinking, treatment of underlying anxiety, and motivational interviewing. Drugs such as disulfiram (Antabuse), which cause vomiting if alcohol is taken, may help in treatment.

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