Alcohol related problems have become an increasing cause of concern the world over. Data drawn from a variety of studies indicate that the growth in the consumption of alcohol in some African countries has been much more rapid than in most other countries of the world. The world Health Organisation (WHO) believes that this situation is likely to generate severe public health problems. Indeed the WHO has asserted that the rapid growth of alcohol consumption in the developing countries is most likely to be followed by an increase in alcohol related problems that would put severe strain on the already scarce economic and social resources.
Furthermore concern is being expressed that if care is not taken and early enough, developing countries would trod the path followed by the developed countries, though the scale may differ. The point to stress is that alcohol abuse and dependence are becoming problems which future governments may have to face. Yet research on this issue have been rather neglected by social scientists in Nigeria.
This paper therefore reviews the literature on the concepts of use and abuse of and dependence on alcohol largely, though not exclusively, in the context of West-European literature with the hope that some insights would be gained about these issues. While the paper outlines the almost indispensable functions of alcohol in society, the implications of the misuse of and dependence on alcohol are discussed in the light of the literature under review.