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Alcoholism by Erin McCullough

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Alcoholism has been deemed a disease for quite some time but some critics do not agree with using that term.  Either way you look at it however, drinking too much can cause significant problems for not only the drinker but those closest to him/her as well.  The causes of alcoholism are not definite but there are a wide variety of symptoms to help identify the disease.  Once identified, the treatment options are just as varied.

Alcohol dependence has no clear cause but different factors can contribute to its development.  Drinking in excess, 15 or more drinks a week for men and 12 or more a week for women, can increase your risk.  Many also believe that genetics may play a role in becoming dependent.  Other factors can be grouped in a mental and emotional health category.  Low self-esteem and disorders such as depression and anxiety appear to be prevalent in those susceptible to alcoholism.

The symptoms of physical alcohol dependence are numerous yet not all of them are present in every alcoholic.  When someone’s daily aspects of their lives, such as work and family relationships, are being harmed by their drinking but they continue to drink, that is a good indication of a problem.  Those who become dependent may also neglect their overall health.  Proper eating habits as well as appearance and cleanliness may be ignored.  The more serious symptoms include “blackouts”, a higher tolerance to alcohol, and emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Self-identifying as an alcoholic can be tricky.  There is a real stigma attached to alcoholism and addiction in general.  No one wants to admit there is something wrong with them, that they can’t control an aspect of their lives, or that they have a problem.  Physicians can run several tests and ask certain questions, but if the person is in denial, answering truthfully is unlikely, much less going to their doctor in the first place.  As difficult as it may be, it has been shown that when family members and those closest to the person afflicted openly and honestly voice their concerns, he/she is more likely to seek treatment.

Treatment options vary and depend on the severity of the disease.  Of course, the main goal is to stop drinking completely.  Some people can achieve this on their own but that can be difficult, not to mention dangerous.  Withdrawal from alcohol can result in life-threatening issues.  Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal.  This can result in hallucinations, agitation, and even seizures.  It is recommended that those with a long and severe history of alcohol abuse seek treatment with professionals.  A multi-pronged approach is taken to address and treat the underlying issues and causes of why drinking became a problem.

Support and help are also highly recommended for those closest to the alcoholic.  It can become a struggle to process and deal with the effects an alcoholic can have on your life in addition to seeing someone you love succumb to the disease.  Organizations such as Al-Anon do not tell you what to do or think, rather they offer support, experiences, and advice from others in similar situations.

Alcoholism affects not just the drinker but the entire family too.  Recognizing the symptoms and being proactive in seeking treatment, just as in any other disease, are key to getting well.  Familial support and communication can be tough but are extremely helpful to the person suffering.  Considering that 1 in every 6 Americans has some form of a drinking problem, it is important to remember that there are millions of people dealing with the same problems; moreover, support is out there for those affected by someone else’s drinking.



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Mayo Clinic   www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholism/DS00340

National Institutes of Health   www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

NIAAA   www.niaaa.nih.gov/

Al-Anon   http://al-anon.org/


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