Alcoholism has multiple and conflicting definitions. In common and historic usage, alcoholism is any condition that results in the continued consumption of alcoholic beverages, despite health problems and negative social consequences. Modern medical definitions describe alcoholism as a disease and addiction which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, alcoholism, also referred to as dipsomania described a preoccupation with, or compulsion toward the consumption of, alcohol and/or an impaired ability to recognize the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
Although not all of these definitions specify current and on-going use of alcohol as a qualifier for alcoholism, some do, as well as remarking on the long-term effects of consistent, heavy alcohol use, including dependence and symptoms of withdrawal.
While the ingestion of alcohol is, by definition, necessary to develop alcoholism, the use of alcohol does not predict the development of alcoholism. The quantity, frequency and regularity of alcohol consumption required to develop alcoholism varies greatly from person to person. In addition, although the biological mechanisms underpinning alcoholism are uncertain, some risk factors, including social environment, stress, mental health, genetic predisposition, age, ethnicity and gender have been identified. Also, studies indicate that the proportion of men with alcohol dependence is higher than the proportion of women, 7% and 2.5% respectively, although women are more vulnerable to long-term consequences of alcoholism. Around 90% of adults in United States consume alcohol, and more than 700,000 of them are treated daily for alcoholism. Professor David Zaridze, who led the international research team, calculated that alcohol had killed three million Russians since 1987.