What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism also called alcohol addiction is a disease categorized by the regular intake of alcohol, where people have a distinct craving to consume alcohol beyond their ability to control it.
Alcoholism affects more than 14 million people in the US and is the third most common psychological illness. It is considered more of a disease than weakness that produces both psychological and physical addiction. If taken in high doses it can damage liver, brain, heart and can even lead to death.
If your pattern of alcohol consumption causes significant distress in your daily life, you probably suffer from alcoholism, which can vary from mild to severe. Nevertheless, even a mild disorder can escalate which can further lead to severe problems. Thus, early treatment is essential.
What causes Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is not caused by any single cause. Instead, it is a mixture of environmental precursors and genetic precursors together. Certainly, there is a genetic role in the development of alcoholism, but no addiction has ever been isolated.
Having an alcoholic parent increases the probability of your alcohol dependence four times, as per The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Correspondingly, environmental factors also play key role in alcoholism. Growing up in a family where alcohol consumption is rampant also increases the risk of alcoholism.
Alcohol’s chemistry allows it to have an effect on almost each type of cell in the body, including the one in the central nervous system. After consuming alcohol for long time, the brain becomes dependent on it. Consistent exposure to alcohol can produce dependence and can cause withdrawal signs during periods of abstinence. However, this is not the only cause of alcoholism. There are multiple other reasons that can cause alcohol addiction.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcohol dependence or alcoholism is one of the severe forms of problem drinking. It can be mild, moderate or extreme, based on the symptoms you experience.
Symptoms of alcoholism represent a serious medical illness:
- Consuming an increased amount of alcohol because of increased tolerance
- You have lost control over your drinking and unsuccessful efforts to quit alcohol
- Significant hangovers and taking more time to recover from after-effects of alcohol consumption
- Giving up other activities because of alcohol use such as going to gym, hanging out with friends or family, pursuing your hobbies
- Constant unsuccessful efforts to reduce consumption by consuming alcohol
- Acknowledgement of side effects of health complications
- You drink alcohol knowing that it’s causing health problems and harming your relationships
- Withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol such as sweating, anxiety, nausea and feeling sick to your stomach
- Lapses in memory or blacking out after a night of drinking alcohol
- Drinking in dangerous situations such as before or while driving, before work or when swimming
Treatment of Alcoholism
Overcoming alcoholism can a long and bumpy road and might even feel impossible for many. But it’s not. If you are prepared to quit and get the support, you can recover from alcoholism – no matter powerless you feel.
Treatment of alcohol addiction is often viewed as having four general phrases:
Many people do not choose to transform their habits overnight. Recovery is usually an ongoing process. Initially, you must overcome denial and distorted thoughts and build up the willingness to start the treatment. This is exactly the stage where most people with alcoholism get stuck. Even after admitting you are alcoholic, you may make excuses. It’s vital to acknowledge your doubts about quitting alcohol.
Detoxification is the second phase of alcoholism treatment that helps to break body’s dependence on alcohol. It is a medically administered period of alcohol withdrawal, during which consultant may supervise medications to control alcoholism symptoms. Along with the medical care, doctors will educate you about your alcohol problems and its treatment.
Detoxification is generally carried out in an inpatient therapy treatment centre or hospital and usually about a week to complete.
Relapse to alcohol is likely to occur in the first two to four months once you stop drinking, a period characterized by mood changes, depression, sleeping issues, headache, anxiety and physiological abnormalities. Getting help and support during this period is critical for cure alcoholism.
It is hard to identify when active phase ends and person enters the maintenance phase. In the active phase, people learn things they need to do to remain sober and develop coping skills to deal with alcohol cravings, stressful situation and social pressure to drink. If a person is comfortable with these skills, he is said to have enter the maintenance phase.