Ethanol is the most widely abused drug in the world. There are more than 10 million alcoholics in the United States alone. Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages has been linked to as many as half of all traffic accidents, two-thirds of homicides, and three-fourths of suicides, and it is a significant factor in other crimes, in family problems, and in personal and industrial accidents. The annual cost to the American economy has been estimated to exceed $100 billion in lost productivity, medical care, and property damage.
Alcoholism has been difficult to define because of its complex nature. A person is generally considered an alcoholic, however, when his or her lifestyle is dominated by the procurement and consumption of alcoholic beverages and when this behavior interferes with personal, professional, social, or family relations.
A light drinker generally is defined as one who consumes an average of one drink or less per day, usually with the evening meal; a moderate drinker is one who has approximately three drinks per day; and a heavy drinker is one who has five or more drinks per day (or in the case of binge drinkers, at least once per week with five or more drinks on each occasion).
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