What is alcoholism?Alcoholism, which is also known as "alcohol dependence syndrome," is a disease which results in persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences. Those who suffer from alcoholism will experience a strong need or compulsion to drink, the inability to stop drinking, physical dependence, and the need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to get “high”.
Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes. But it has a great deal to do with a person's uncontrollable need for alcohol. This description of alcoholism helps us understand why most alcoholics can't just "use a little willpower" to stop drinking. He or she is frequently in the grip of a powerful craving for alcohol, a need that can feel as strong as the need for food or water. While some people are able to recover without help, the majority of alcoholic individuals need outside assistance to recover from their disease.
Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence. In addition, alcohol abuse is less likely than alcoholism to include tolerance (the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get "high").
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?There are many physical, mental and social signs and symptoms of alcoholism. Some of the physical effects include cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, polyneuropathy, epilepsy, heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, increased risk of cancer and alcoholic dementia. Complications from alcoholism can result in death.
Mental health effects of alcoholism include anxiety, depression, psychosis, confusion, panic disorder, and many different psychiatric disorders. Many of the social effects are loss of employment, financial troubles, loss of living quarters, and legal consequences can occur for criminal charges such as drunk driving.
TreatmentThere are many different treatment approaches for those who suffer from alcoholism. Nearly all the treatments focus on helping individuals discontinue their alcohol intake and dependency. This is then followed by life training or social support to help the person resist returning to alcohol use. There are many different organizations dedicated to helping individuals overcome their alcohol addiction through group support and therapy. The most well known organizations include Alcoholics Anonymous, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Women for Sobriety.
There are a wide variety of medications that an individual can take to aid their recovery. The most commonly prescribed medications are naltrexone, campral, topamax and disulifram. If you think medication is a good option for you, it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine what will be most beneficial for you.
Many of our members here at CB struggle with both alcohol and drug problems. Often our members try to numb their pain from life and their eating disorders with the use of drugs and alcohol. However, the use of alcohol and drugs can greatly aggravate mental illness including depression and can cause a myriad of health problems. Furthermore, the use of alcohol and drugs is related to other dangerous behavior.
Facts about Alcohol
- More than 100,000 U.S. deaths are caused by excessive alcohol consumption each year. Direct and indirect causes of death include drunk driving, cirrhosis of the liver, falls, cancer, and stroke.
- At least once a year, the guidelines for low risk drinking are exceeded by an estimated 74% of male drinkers and 72% of female drinkers aged 21 and older.
- Nearly 14 million Americans meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders.
- Youth who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than those who never drink alcohol.
- Among current adult drinkers, more than half say they have a blood relative who is or was an alcoholic or problem drinker.
- Across people of all ages, males are four times as likely as females to be heavy drinkers.
- More than 18% of Americans experience alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some time in their lives.
- Traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for persons aged 6–33. About 45% of these fatalities are in alcohol-related crashes.
- Underage drinking costs the United States more than $58 billion every year — enough to buy every public school student a state-of-the-art computer.
- Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among young people.
- Problem drinkers average four times as many days in the hospital as nondrinkers — mostly because of drinking-related injuries.
- Alcohol kills 6½ times more youth than all other illicit drugs combined.
- Concerning the past 30 days, 50% of high school seniors report drinking, with 32% report being drunk at least once.