What is Alcoholism? The definition of alcoholism can be described as a chronic illness, which is marked by uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages that interferes with physical or mental health, and social, family or occupational responsibilities. This dependence on alcohol has only been diagnosed as a medical disorder recently in the medical field. Like many other diseases, it has a predictable course and is influenced environmentally and sometimes genetically. The disease can also be called progressive and fatal which means that the disease can persist over a long period of time, bodily changes progress as the drinking continues and can cause premature death through overdose, suicide, motor vehicle crashes and complications of the brain, liver, heart, and other organs.
Alcoholism can be detected by four basic symptoms, they are tolerance which is the increasing need to drink excessive amounts to feel its affects, also impaired control which is the problem of not being able to stop oneself from drinking at any given time. Craving is another symptom characterized by a strong compulsion to drink, and the last one is physical dependence which shows withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, nausea or shakiness. Some other common minor symptoms would be solitary drinking, making excuses to drink, episodes of violence while under the influence, unexplained mood swings, neglect of physical appearance, and hostility when confronted about drinking. Also, one can have what is called preoccupation of alcohol which means excessive focused attention given to the drug, its effects and its use.
Causes of Alcoholism There is no definite cause of alcoholism, however, many factors can play a role in the development of the disorder. In a family with an alcoholic parent, a child is more likely to become an alcoholic than a child without an alcoholic parent. Alcoholism can be inherited genetically from parent to child. An alcoholic disorder can occur if one or both parents drank alcohol at the time of conception or the mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. A women drinking during pregnancy can also cause several other complications besides a drinking disorder. In a study done it concluded that if one person in a family was an alcoholic that nine out of ten times alcoholism will be reported in two or more family members.
Environmental causes can occur such as the influence of friends, the easy availability of alcohol, the social acceptance of alcohol and a life containing high stress levels. Also alcoholism can occur when his or her parents did not teach or treat their child right causing frustration and anxiety to the child later in life. Or the family teaches the child to drink such as if the father drinks then the child follows the example set by his father. That child can learn from observation that alcohol may be used to cope with problems such as fatigue, stress and depression. Also the values of a family can include the encouragement or acceptance of alcohol which both promote drinking. Psychological factors also include in this such as a need to be relieved of anxiety, conflicts within a relationship which are unsolved, or a low self-esteem.
Phases of Alcoholism There are four phases of alcoholism which take a period of five to seven years to develop. Some of these stages can be skipped or not gone in the same order depending on the person. The first stage is called the warning stage. It happens when the user consumes alcohol as a form of relief for tension to make them feel better.
The person's drinking habits can increase from often to daily or regularly in which he or she will seek more reasons and occasions to drink. Lastly during this stage a tolerance is built from the larger consumption of alcohol. The second stage is dangerous to the person. The drinker has larger quantities of alcohol to obtain relief.
More frequent and deeper intoxication are part of this phase. Drinking alone, blackouts and gulping alcohol are symptoms to stage two. The third stage of alcoholism is the most crucial phase of all. The drinker loses all control of the amount of alcohol that was intended to be consumed. Withdrawal from social environment, neglect of responsibility, and the hiding of alcohol occur during phase three. Also the drinker may intend to be hospitalized after his or her consumption of alcohol.
The fourth and final stage is the chronic stage, where the person may be intoxicated most of the time during a course of a day. During this the alcoholic has lost all control of the drinking and may drink anything regardless of the harm to further his or her intoxication. Sobriety to the person in this stage seems to be a torment and gives up all excuses involved with their drinking. Treatment of Alcoholism The treatment of an alcoholic has to start with the realization that him or her has the disorder. Denial is often associated with alcoholism which is not believing that him or her needs medical attention for the chronic disease. Many of the alcoholics that seek treatment aren't voluntarily occurring, instead it is normally out of pressure from others that brings treatment to their attention.
A family member or a close friend should try to confront the person while sober not during a drinking episode. By the time person recognizes he or she has a problem then abstinence of drinking is the only successful treatment. Many times family members or close friends are mentally affected by the person and can also receive counseling along with the alcoholic. The first step in the treatment of an alcoholic is detoxification.
The alcohol is eliminated from the body through a controlled, supervised setting. Most of the time this is done in a medical facility because of the severe reactions during withdrawal of the alcohol. Tranquilizers and sedatives are often prescribed to the patient to help control symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The process takes anywhere from four to seven days. After, examination of other alcohol related problems such as liver and depression are analyzed. Once detoxification is achieved then the treatment continues in a public or private hospital with a combination of medical and psychiatric methods.
It can be accomplished in an inpatient or outpatient setting depending on the condition of the alcoholic. Individual and group psychiatric consultation is used to recover from the disease. In the outpatient clinics, the person receives medical or psychiatric treatment on a regular basis but is not hospitalized. Another method of treatment is called a Halfway House. That is a situation in which the patient works daily and visit his family, but he returns to sleep and eat at the halfway house. This kind of treatment gives the person independence and lets them function in a life of sobriety.
A less common type of therapy called aversion therapy is a drug that produces very unpleasant side effects if there is alcohol intake within two weeks of the drug being taken. This kind of treatment is very forceful making the person dislike the alcohol because of the repulsive side effects. A self-help group called Alcoholics Anonymous exists that gives emotional support and acts as a role model because of the recovery being made by the alcoholics. The majority of the patients are very unwilling to get help because they are either too lazy or just don't really care too much. To help induce treatment, dealing with motivation to help maintain and increase his or her desire to recognize and then to stop his or her alcohol related problems.
Therapy can be done by all professionals or nonprofessionals or both. Through a series of steps of identification, confrontation, and then medical and psychiatric treatment, most alcoholics can be guided through the process fairly smoothly.