Alcohol addiction

This text provides information in simple language on the topic: alcohol addiction.

What is alcohol addiction?

Some people like to drink alcohol. Alcohol is an intoxicant. That means: alcohol makes you drunk. Alcohol can also be addictive. And alcohol can make you sick. Does a person drink a lot of alcohol? And the person can no longer live without alcohol? Then that person is dependent. That means: the person is addicted to alcohol. One also says: alcohol addiction.

Alcohol addiction is a disease. Around 1.6 million people in Germany are addicted to alcohol.

What happens if you are addicted to alcohol?

Alcohol affects the body. Do you drink alcohol? Then the alcohol enters the blood through the stomach lining. The alcohol is distributed in the body with the blood. Then there are often various signs:

  • The person may feel happier than usual.
  • Or the person becomes aggressive.

The liver breaks down the alcohol again after a while.

Even a small amount of alcohol has an effect on the body: alcohol is poison for the cells. Does a person drink a lot of alcohol? Then this person has a higher risk of complications.

Would you like to reduce your own risk? Then you should consider the following things:

  • Women should drink a maximum of 12 grams of alcohol per day. This is, for example, a small glass of beer.
  • Men should drink a maximum of 24 grams of alcohol per day. This is, for example, a large glass of beer.
  • You should drink alcohol no more than three days a week.

In the picture gallery you can see: This is how many grams of alcohol are in a drink.

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle


© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Beer, 0.33 liters: 13 grams of alcohol

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Wine, 0.2 liters: 16 grams

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Sherry, 0.1 liter: 16 grams

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Liqueur, 0.02 liters: 5 grams

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Whiskey, 0.02 liters: 7 grams

© W & B / Ulrike Möhle

Grain, 0.02 liters: 7 grams


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Do you drink more than one glass of beer a day? Then this amount can harm your body: you are more likely to get certain diseases. You can then get these diseases, for example:

  • Fatty liver
  • cancer
  • high blood pressure

How can you recognize alcohol addiction?

Alcohol addiction can show several signs, such as:

  • Affected people lose control of their alcohol consumption. You then drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Affected people develop a tolerance to alcohol. That means: Affected people have to drink more and more alcohol.
  • Affected people are often aware of the negative consequences of their alcohol consumption.
    But they keep drinking anyway.
  • Affected people neglect their family and friends.
  • Affected people neglect their work.
  • Affected people have not drunk alcohol for a long time? Then they often get withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are part of the addiction. These include, for example:
  • Restlessness
  • nausea
  • Tremble
  • increased heartbeat
  • increased irritability

You think: maybe I am addicted to alcohol? Then talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you.

What are the causes of alcohol addiction?

There are several causes of alcohol addiction. Some things can affect alcohol addiction, such as:

  • The social environment. Do you drink a lot of alcohol around you? Do you like to drink alcohol? Then it can lead to alcohol addiction.
  • The intoxication. Some people are happier with alcohol. Therefore, these people may drink alcohol more often. Perhaps this can lead to alcohol addiction.
  • Disposition. Does anyone in the family have an alcohol addiction? Then your own risk of alcohol addiction may be higher.
  • A person's life story. People with a difficult life history are more likely to become addicted to alcohol.

These things don't have to lead to alcohol addiction. But sometimes they are one of several causes.

What can you do about alcohol addiction?

Doctors can treat the addiction with therapy. Patients can do therapy at home. Or patients can do the therapy in a clinic.

Therapy has four phases:

  • Contact phase. In the contact phase, the person concerned seeks help from a doctor. The doctor informs the person concerned. The person concerned decides: I need my family's help? Then the doctor will also inform that person's family. The doctor will find a solution together with the person concerned.
  • Reduction phase. In this phase, the patient consciously drinks less alcohol than before. The doctor helps him with this.
  • Withdrawal phase. The patient still drinks too much alcohol? Or did the alcohol badly damage the patient's body? Then the doctor does a physical detox with the patient. The patient has withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms can be very severe. That is why detox often takes place in the hospital. In this way, doctors can help the patient directly with problems.
  • Weaning phase. Weaning takes several weeks. Sometimes it takes several months to wean. In the weaning phase, the patient learns: This is how I can live well without alcohol. A psychologist supports the patient in this.
  • Follow-up and adaptation phase. In this phase the patient has to go back to his everyday life. This is not always easy: the patient can run into old problems and fears. Then the patient can quickly feel overwhelmed. Therefore, thorough follow-up care is very important. For example, aftercare takes on:
  • Addiction ambulances
  • Addiction counseling centers
  • Specialists

Patients should also find a self-help group. There, sick people meet other people with alcohol addiction. In a self-help group, patients can talk about their experiences. This will help you avoid relapse.

Do you think: I drink too much alcohol? Or do your friends say: Do you drink too much alcohol? Then go to a counseling center. Or go to the doctor.

Where can you get more information?

Would you like to read more about alcohol addiction? More information about alcohol addiction can be found here. Attention: This link leads out of our simple language offer. The information is then no longer in plain language.

Attention: This text only contains general information. The texts are not a substitute for advice from the doctor. Only a doctor can give you accurate information. Are you feeling sick? Or do you have questions about an illness? Then you should always talk to your doctor. Call the doctor's office.

We wrote the texts together with the Light Language Research Center. The light language research center is at the University of Hildesheim.