What Is Alcoholism
Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder. What Is Alcoholism occurs when you drink so much that your body eventually becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol becomes the most important thing in your life.
What Causes Alcoholism
People with alcohol dependence will continue to drink even when drinking causes negative consequences, like losing a job. They may know that their alcohol use negatively affects their lives, but it’s often not enough to make them stop drinking. Some people may drink alcohol to the point that it causes problems, but they’re not physically dependent on alcohol. This is sometimes referred to as alcohol abuse.
What Alcohol dependence
Craving – a strong need to drink
Loss of control – not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started
Physical dependence – withdrawal symptoms
Tolerance – the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect
What Are the Risk Factors for Alcoholism?
Known risk factors for alcoholism include having:
More than 15 drinks per week if you’re male
More than 12 drinks per week if you’re female
More than five drinks per day at least once a week (binge drinking)
A parent with alcoholism
A mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
How is alcoholism diagnosed?
Persistence – the patient carries on consuming alcohol even though he/she knows it is harming him/her physically and psychologically.
Withdrawal – the patient withdraws from recreational, social, or occupational activities. This did not used to be the case.
Time consuming – the patient spends a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from alcohol consumption.
Unsuccessfully attempting to cut down – the patient is continuously trying to cut down alcohol consumption, but does not succeed. Or the patient has a persistent desire to cut down.
Beyond intentions – the patient ends up drinking more alcohol, or drinks for a longer period than he/she intended.
Withdrawal symptoms – when the patient abstains from alcohol or cuts down he/she experiences tremors, insomnia, nausea or anxiety. Typically, the patient drinks more to avoid these symptoms.
Alcohol tolerance – the patient needs a large quantity of alcohol to feel intoxicated. However, when the liver is damaged and cannot metabolize the alcohol so well, this tolerance may drop. Damage to the central nervous system may also reduce tolerance levels.
Treatment for alcohol dependency
Alcoholics Anonymous – Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to stop drinking and solve their drinking problem.
Staying on the wagon (remaining abstinent) – some patients find the detox acheivable, but start drinking again soon after, or some time later. It is important to remember Samuel Johnson’s phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed. Try, try, and try again.” Success rates are significantly improved if the patient has access to counseling or some support group. Family support is crucial.
Detoxification – the patient takes some medication to prevent withdrawal symptoms (delirium tremens) which many alcoholics experience when they give up drinking. Treatment usually lasts from four to seven days. Chlordiazepoxide, a benzodiazepine medication, is frequently used for detoxification (detox). Doses will be initially high, and will then taper off. It is important that the patient abstains completely from alcohol during the detox.
Hormone ghrelin – Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg, have discovered a new brain mechanism involved in alcohol addiction involving the stomach hormone ghrelin. When ghrelin’s actions in the brain are blocked, alcohol’s effects on the reward system are reduced. It is an important discovery that could lead to new therapies for addictions such as alcohol dependence.
Drugs for cravings – Naltrexone (ReVia) may help with the urge to have a drink. Acamprosate (Campral) may help with cravings.
Drug that provokes a severe reaction to alcohol – Antabuse (disulfiram) causes a severe reaction when somebody drinks alcohol, including nausea, flushing, vomiting and headaches. It is a deterrent. It will not treat the alcoholic’s compulsion and will not cure alcoholism.
Residential programs – residential programs are ideal for some people. They include expert professional help, individual or group therapy, support groups, training, family involvement, activity therapy, and a host of strategies that are aimed at treating the alcoholic successfully. Some people find that being physically away from access to temptation is a great help.
Do-it-yourself – experts say about 30% of people with an alcohol problem manage to reduce their drinking or abstain without seeking professional help. There is a great deal of material in books and the internet that may help the self-helper.
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