The consumption of alcohol is a socially accepted past time. From happy hours to family gatherings, it is common for adults who are of age to toss back a few while enjoying the company of their friends, family or peers. However, there is a very dark side to the jovial nature of having a libation, and that is when the volume of alcohol being consumed steadily increases to unhealthy proportions. Here is an inside look at alcoholism, which is a type of sickness that many people are unaware they are affected by.
What Is It?
Alcoholism is a complete dependence on alcohol consumption. In other words, it is an addiction to alcohol. Much like any other drug addiction, a person afflicted by alcoholism will have an uncontrollable desire to constantly consume alcohol. Alcoholism tends to follow alcohol abuse, which is the unhealthy consumption of alcohol. Unhealthy consumption can refer to the sheer volume of alcoholic beverages consumed in one sitting, or the frequency in which alcohol is consumed on a weekly basis.
According to PubMed Health from the United States National Library of Medicine, those who suffer from alcohol abuse are more likely to develop alcoholism under these particular circumstances:
- Any male who has 15 or more drinks per week
- Any female who has 12 or more drinks per week
- Any person who consumes five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week
One alcoholic drink is generally defined by one of the following:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of liquor
Causes And Risk Factors
There is no specific cause for developing alcoholism. A person can develop this condition overtime, due to various factors in his or her life. Studies have suggested a correlation between alcoholism and genetics. However, an inherited dependency on alcohol can be also explained by constantly being around a parental figure who also suffered from alcoholism. In other words, it is difficult to determine whether alcoholism is, indeed, inherited or just caused by influential factors.
Risk factors for the development for alcoholism include:
- Having a parent who suffers from alcoholism
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- Being surrounded by people who suffer from alcoholism or alcohol abuse
- Live in an environment where excessive alcohol consumption is not only accepted, but encouraged
- Easy access to alcohol
- Suffering from hardships, especially economic or emotional hardships
Signs and Symptoms
Common signs of alcoholism include:
- High irritability or emotional distress unless alcohol is being consumed
- Endangering oneself for the sake of drinking (drunk driving, drinking with a health condition)
- Inability to control the consumption of alcohol
- Drinking alone
- Constantly looking for excuses to consume alcohol
- Using alcohol for celebratory purposes (drinking after a good day at work)
- Using alcohol to appease a troubling situation (drinking after a bad day at work)
- Inability to resist alcohol at the mere sight or smell of it
- Hiding the addiction
- Becoming violent or emotionally unstable while drinking
- Missing work, school or important events because the person is constantly in an inebriated state
- Physically and emotionally neglecting oneself
- Ignoring physical appearance; lack of personal hygiene
Common symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Uncontrollable shakes and tremors, especially around the hands after alcohol has not been consumed for a long period of time
- Memory loss
- Blacking out
- Inability to think clearly
- Mood swings
- Constantly smelling like alcohol
Many of these symptoms fall under the category of alcohol withdrawal. Any person who is showing significant signs and symptoms of alcoholism needs to seek out professional assistance immediately.
While the primary treatment for alcoholism is to stop drinking completely, one may find that the addiction to alcohol is so strong, it is difficult to completely quit drinking without professional assistance. If the alcohol dependency is not too severe, a person can start slowly reducing the amount of alcohol that is consumed on a weekly basis to more moderate levels.
However, those who have been suffering from alcoholism for quite some time may go through quite an ordeal to quit their addiction. Treatment centers and facilities are available to assist with severe cases of alcoholism. Just going without a single drop of alcohol in an addict's system for 24 hours is enough to cause a severe case of alcohol withdrawal, also known as delirium tremens. This can result in:
- Severe confusion and agitation
- Loss of bodily function
It is for this reason that professional help is necessary to help someone suffering from alcoholism to slowly wean off of the alcohol. Once that person's health is stabilized, they may be released from a treatment facility into the care of friends or family members. However, the treatment does not stop there.
Support groups for alcohol recovery and addiction are crucial for preventing a relapse. These programs offer pier support via counselors, mentors and through a group of individuals who have also suffered due to their dependency on alcohol.
Those concerned about themselves or a loved one who is suffering from alcoholism should speak with a doctor or healthcare professional for further assistance.