What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism can be defined as a physical dependence on alcohol, or a condition in which the body becomes dependent on alcohol to function physically. As a result of this dependency, alcohol is consumed obsessively and in uncontrolled amounts. Men and women who suffer from addiction to alcohol cannot exercise control over the amount consumed, regardless if their addiction is damaging to their relationships, ability to work, or finances. Alcoholism is a devastating disease as it results in detrimental mental, physical, and emotional consequences to the man or woman who may be suffering.
Intervention: Sean’s Alcoholism – A scene from the episode Sean. As posted by: A&E
Alcohol Addiction Statistics
Research studies have confirmed the prevalence and devastation of addiction to alcohol and alcohol abuse. A recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry estimated that about 30 percent of Americans reported having an alcohol disorder at some point in their lives. Over half (17.8%) were due to alcohol abuse and the remainder to alcohol dependence (12.5%) . The following are other important statistics to be aware of in regards to alcohol abuse and alcoholism:
- Alcohol abuse is more common among men, whites, and younger unmarried adults .
- Alcohol abuse developed at an average age of 22.5, while alcohol dependence developed at an average age of 21.9 .
- On average, patients receive treatment 8 years after the age at which they develop the condition .
- Alcohol is a factor in 1/25 deaths worldwide .
- Alcohol consumption more severely affects women than men .
Causes of Alcohol Addiction
There are several interconnected factors that can result in alcohol abuse or addiction. Examples of these causes that can influence the development of alcoholism include biological, psychological, and social/environmental factors. Biological influences that may attribute to alcohol addiction include a genetic component. Psychological factors connected with alcoholism include but are not limited to cases of abuse, underlying traumas, feelings of depression, and anxiety. In situations of unbearable emotions, feelings, or pain, alcohol may be abused as a means of escaping these realities. Social/environmental factors that can be a factor in alcoholism include similar cases of abuse within family, availability and acceptability of alcohol within a community, and pressure from peer groups. Examples of social/environmental factors that may be related to alcohol addiction are conditions such as poverty, homelessness, or poor housing. Because of the similarities alcoholism has with other addictive diseases, it can be co-occurring with substance abuse or eating disorders. The nature of addictive diseases is influenced by several factors, and it is likely that the alcoholic may also struggle with other forms of addictions.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
Men and women who are abusing alcohol may exhibit the following signs:
- Ongoing negligence of responsibilities at work, home, school due to drinking
- Drinking as a method of coping or de-stressing
- Increase in legal difficulties as a result of drinking
- Loss of control over drinking
- Inability to quit drinking even if desired
- Loss of interest in other activities once enjoyed.
- Preoccupation with alcohol and drinking
- Drinking in isolation
- Storing alcohol in unlikely places
- Increased tolerance to alcohol so that greater amounts are needed to feel its effects
Likewise, men and women who are alcoholics may display the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Weight loss
- Digestive problems, such as gastritis or heartburn
- Redness of the nose and cheeks
Addiction to alcohol can result in numerous short and long term consequences for the user. Men and women struggling with alcoholism can be impacted physically, psychologically / mentally, and socially as a result of their addiction. The following are ways in which alcohol abusers are affected in their lives: Physical Effects – Abuse of alcohol is detrimental to the normal mechanisms and functions of the human body. Since alcohol travels to all parts of the body through the blood system when consumed, several systems are impacted. The following are possible physical effects of alcohol:
- Alteration in brain function resulting in slurred speech, reduced memory and clumsiness.
- Inflammation of the liver, scarring of liver tissue and liver disease
- Gastrointestinal dysfunctions, such as pancreatitis or reduced absorption of nutrients
- Heart disease
Psychological / Mental Effects – Alcoholism can also negatively influence mental health. The following are some of the potential psychological and mental effects from alcoholism:
- Increased risk of depression
- Increased risk of anxiety
- Severe mental illnesses, such as psychosis
- Hallucinations, delusions
- Personality shifts
- Mood swings
- Confusion, disorientation
Social Effects – Alcohol addiction may also result in several negative social effects. These may include the following:
- Isolation, seclusion from loved ones
- Damaged relationships with family members, friends
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Inability to be a functioning member of society
Abstaining from alcohol once dependency is created may cause severe symptoms in the alcoholic. When a man or woman has been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, severe withdrawal symptoms will occur in the absence of alcohol. These symptoms can occur within 5-10 hours of the last drink and may worsen over several days. Some of the common symptoms experienced as a result of withdrawing from alcohol use include the following:
- Mood Swings
- Clammy Skin
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Delirium tremes – a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes.
Alcohol poisoning will occur if a man or woman has consumed toxic amounts of alcohol, typically over a short period of time. If blood alcohol levels are dangerously high, this would be considered toxic, or poisonous. Toxic levels of alcohol in the blood lead to detrimental consequences as this can be life-threatening and usually warrants urgent medical care and treatment. One of the main causes of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking, which is characterized by the rapid consumption of five or more drinks in a row. Toxic blood alcohol levels can also be caused by the accidental or intentional consumption of household products that contain alcohol. Because of the danger associated with alcohol poisoning, it is important to seek emergency medical help immediately if this is suspected.
Reverting back to alcohol use after abstaining is known as alcoholism relapse. Many factors can contribute to relapse, include underlying psychological/emotional issues, peer pressure, stress, insecurity, inability to cope with difficult situations, etc. Having the proper resources and a supportive treatment program can help in preventing relapse, ultimately ensuring a successful recovery journey.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Alcoholism is a devastating addiction that can lead to life-altering consequences. If you or someone you care for is suffering with an alcohol addiction, the first step towards overcoming this can be taken by recognizing the problem. Seeking professional help is also an important part of dealing with the complications that may have resulted from alcohol abuse. Serious alcohol addiction should receive treatment at a qualified rehab center. Alcoholism can be a damaging issue to deal with, but there is no need to struggle through this alone. By having the help of a professional treatment team, treatment program, or interventionist, you will have access to the necessary tools for overcoming this addiction and finding recovery.
 Deborah S. Hasin, Frederick S. Stinson, Elizabeth Ogburn, and Bridget F. Grant. Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence in the United States: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64:830-842. Vol. 64 No. 7, July 2007
 Jürgen Rehm, Colin Mathers, Svetlana Popova, Montarat Thavorncharoensap, Yot Teerawattananon, Jayadeep Patra. Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders. The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9682, Pages 2223 – 2233, 27 June 2009 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60746-7
Articles Related to Alcohol Abuse
- According to the CDC, there is no safe amount of alcohol, and there is no safe type of alcohol such as wine or wine coolers. It is recommended that all alcohol should be avoided as the consequences can be devastating. The negative effects of drinking while pregnant can include birth defect and death of the fetus.
- Antidepressant use has increased almost 400% and is now the third most prescribed drug in the US. It is important to be aware of the dangerous effects that can result from mixing alcohol and antidepressants. It is essential to be aware of how the combination of antidepressants and other drugs affect you.
- There are various ways to attempt the treatment of alcohol abuse. The more traditional 12 step based process is often used along with other standardized therapy processes. However, there are some alternative approaches that may be able to reach those that are not responding to more common approach. Although there is not a great deal of empirical evidence, these alternative therapies do indicate signs of success.
- The adolescent years may be some of the most challenging years in a person’s life. When Peer Pressure is introduced, it can become even worse. Also, this can be the time when a young adult begins to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, Peer Pressure can play a key role in an adolescent developing an alcohol addiction.
- Binge drinking is becoming an increasingly serious health problem. Although binge drinking is most often associated with college frat parties, the majority of binge drinking actually occurs in adults that are 26 and older. This problem is often overlooked, but the consequences are serious, often leading to alcoholism, brain damage or death.
- Families can be difficult to live with and be a part of, but if there is an addict involved, a family can become exponentially worse. Some family members will often try to “help” the addict or alcoholic, but what really happens is they enable the one suffering from the addiction and make things worse. Making excuses and enabling someone fighting an addiction can be deadly.
- While you will look ahead with optimism and hopefulness for your child’s college journey, you will likely be anticipating challenges and obstacles they will face along the way. A common fear that parents experience is the uncertainty of substance abuse on the college campus and how the opportunities to use drugs or alcohol might impact their loved one in their college pursuits.
- Students will have to make a decision about how they will handle alcohol, which will likely be encountered during their time in college. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, essentially all college students will experience the effects of college drinking, whether they choose to drink or not.
- Alcoholic drinks are a common part of our society and culture. Many celebratory events, holidays, gatherings, parties and more may involve an alcoholic beverage. In addition to this cultural norm, more and more individuals use alcohol as a way of coping, unwinding, distracting, or relaxing.
- Statistics show that eight teens die everyday as a result of drinking and driving . In 2011, nearly one million teens consumed alcohol and made the decision to drive , and underage drinkers who drive represent 17% of the fatal alcohol-related crashes . This is a very serious situation. Regrettably, the odds were against your kids making it home safely after they had been drinking.
- One of the things that we regularly hear from people in our community is their concern that getting sober means the end of any ‘fun’ whatsoever. They equate a sober lifestyle with boredom, and a future lacking friends and excitement. Of course, they are making the assumption that alcohol or their drug of choice has created the only platform for fun and excitement. So what is one to do when that platform is gone?
- While the holidays are a joyous time for many, they can also be a time of great struggle for those who are in recovery from an addiction to alcohol. This is a time where there are many gatherings in which alcohol is served and freely enjoyed by many.
- Many aspects of the recovery journey from substance abuse are tedious and painful. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts about recovering from addiction is undoing the many habits and behaviors that have been engrained in you after years of substance abuse.
- If you are in recovery from substance abuse, you may find any holiday gathering especially challenging. Holidays in general, whether Christmastime or Fourth of July and anything in between, are seen as a time to relax and indulge.
- Festive decorations, holiday parties, exchanging gifts, and letting loved ones know just how much we care are what encompass the holiday season. It is often a period of time where moods are merry and the charitable side of many people comes out, allowing other individuals to benefit from the giving nature of people when it comes time to celebrate the holidays.
- During a time that often encourages indulging in rich foods, desserts, and drinks, this time can be especially challenging for a recovering alcoholic who is attempting to stay sober.
- As a recovering alcoholic, your perception on parties, holidays and celebrations has likely changed drastically. In the past, parties may have been a time for you to indulge in specialty drinks with family and friends, possibly going past your limit for the sake of “celebrating”.
- It can be difficult to refrain from alcohol when it appears throughout many places along your travels, beginning with your journey in the airport to the airplane itself and in the hotels and restaurants you may be visiting. If you travel often and are working to keep your sobriety, know that there are many ways to maintain your travels, even during the recovery process.
- While there is nothing wrong with consuming alcohol in moderation when someone is of legal age, there are sadly many people who fall into the trap of addiction and become incapable of controlling the amount of alcohol that they consume on a regular, ongoing basis.
- When a person has an alcohol problem, the consequences that can ensue can wreak havoc on a person’s life. The manner in which an individual performs at work can be greatly affected as completing even the simplest tasks often come with obstacles. Moreover, it can be quite difficult for a person to acquire or maintain steady employment should an individual’s consumption of alcohol interfere with the responsibilities that come with getting or having a job.
- Many people who have diabetes can drink alcohol moderately without suffering from dramatically negative consequences. However, it is important that the term “moderately” be adhered to.
- The abuse of and addiction to substances has long been known to run in families. However, extensive research on the topic has shown that genetics are believed to be responsible for approximately half of the risk for alcoholism. Various estimates have offered percentages ranging anywhere between 40% and 60%.