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Description of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a chronic, sometimes fatal disease. Alcoholism by nature is when a drinking problem turns into long term alcohol abuse.

Alcohol abuse increases to uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction or alcoholism is the inability to control one’s drinking. Developing alcoholism effects, the physical and emotional wellbeing of a person. Dependence on alcohol creates health complications such as liver disease.

Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism

Problem drinking occurs when someone consumes too much alcohol at one time, has trouble not drinking, or engages in excessive alcohol use and is not able to stop.

Alcoholism refers to a condition in which a person has a strong urge or physical need to drink alcohol, even though it has a negative consequence on their life.

Levels of Alcohol Consumption

Government and academic research institutions conduct studies to determine what levels of consuming alcohol will determine alcohol related problems or an alcohol addiction.

  1. Drinking in Moderation – limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks or less daily for men and one drink or less daily for women
  2. Binge Drinking – The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a “pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher”. This type of drinking equates to consuming five or more drinks (male), or four or more drinks (female), within a two-hour time frame. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), differs in definition with five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other. This pattern occurs at least 1 day in the past month.
  3. Heavy Alcohol Use – The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines heavy drinking for men when four or more drinks are consumed in one day or fourteen or more drinks per week. The difference for women is three or more drinks consumed in one day or more than seven drinks per week. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
  4. Patterns of Drinking Associated with Alcohol Use Disorder – Binge drinking and too much alcohol hence heavy drinking will increase the risk of alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Use Disorders

Substantial amounts of alcohol consumption and binge drinking can lead to alcohol dependence. The diagnosis in treating alcoholism is “alcohol use disorder”.

To treat alcoholism requires professional medical care. A hospital or treatment facility is always suggested with increased risk factors, family history, and heavy drinking that when stopping will cause alcohol withdrawal.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

An alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease that affects individuals who are suffering from the fallout of alcoholism. When you become preoccupied with alcohol and cannot stop on your own if you can see the havoc that drinking is creating – you can begin to look at your alcohol consumption and seek alcohol treatment.

Alcohol is socially acceptable and legal to drink and will not affect all people the same. Alcohol affects the nervous system. Even family members will experience alcohol related physical and emotional consequences different from one another.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.3 million global deaths each year are a result of harmful alcohol use. For many, consuming alcohol is perfectly fine, and does not cause any health problems, but for others it can result in a substance use disorder coupled with alcoholism.

A sign that drinking habits are becoming a problem is when alcohol dependence develops. Alcohol dependence is when a person becomes dependent upon alcohol intake to feel “normal” or needs alcohol to function.

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Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

Over time, heavy drinking and alcohol use can result in negative health effects that last forever. Someone who is struggling with an alcohol use disorder can suffer from many health problems including liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, or digest behaviors.

In pregnant women who drink alcohol, there is an increased risk for fetal alcohol syndrome after the baby is born.

Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss. Along with long-term health effects, there can also be social problems, including unemployment, job-related problems, or family problems.

The most common symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Not capable of limiting the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so

  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol or engage in unhealthy alcohol consumption

  • Drinking too much alcohol at one time or developing a tolerance so you need more alcohol to feel its effect or regardless of how much you drink you have a reduced effect from the same amount

  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you quit drinking— such as shaking, sweating or nausea

When Does Drinking Alcohol Become a Problem?

Alcohol becomes a problem when excessive drinking occurs and when someone is having consistent problems in their daily life because of their alcoholism.

Including alcohol in social, religious, and family gatherings is not a problem. Drinking does not always lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, but there are times when drinking too much alcohol results in alcohol related problems.

Knowing the signs and risk factors of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are important in getting help when needed. Finding the right alcohol treatment program is key once you or your family start to notice negative situations from an alcohol dependence.

If you start to need more alcohol to achieve the same results than how much you previously drank, you are at an increased risk for developing alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Alcohol problems can be treated with much success. Professional medical care at a treatment facility is an option utilized when alcohol abuse and alcoholism require detoxification and then a continuum of care ranging from residential treatment to intensive outpatient. Support groups such as alcoholics anonymous meetings can be a part of ongoing maintenance for continued sobriety.

Alcoholism Signs

People who misuse alcohol will begin to need alcohol to function. They will not engage in normal activities because of their alcohol dependency. Mild or moderate drinking may work for some but being aware of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can have some rethinking drinking.

A helpful alcohol abuse self-checklist can include the following questions:

  • Do people I trust suggest that I drink excessively?

  • Do I crave alcohol?

  • Have I ever questioned if alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence is happening in my life?

  • Are my daily living skills – eating, waking up on time, hygiene, affected by alcohol abuse?

  • Is my social support strained – my job, family, friends due to my drinking?

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is when someone drinks an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time, resulting in shame or guilt. From the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, this refers to when someone not only has more than one drink in a short amount of time but may have a several drinks in an hour or less. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming four or more drinks (female) or five or more drinks (male), in about 2-hour time frame.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as five or more alcoholic drinks for males or four or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion This can cause an increase in blood alcohol concentration or even worse, other risk factors, which can be detrimental to someone’s health.

How to Tell If Someone May Be Struggling with Alcohol Abuse

Individuals suffering from alcoholism are often in denial or refuse to face their illness. It is important to ask the right questions to assess whether you or a loved one may or may not have an alcohol abuse problem. Alcohol use disorders have specific symptoms of alcoholism.

What does the medical community say about alcoholism?

The medical community has created a list of diagnostic questions to help determine if alcohol related problems lean toward the diagnosis of alcoholism. The diagnosis for alcohol use disorder in the United States is based upon the criteria laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APS).

Factors and Indicators of Alcoholism

There are many factors and indicators that would suggest that someone is struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

  • Have you had times when you ended up drinking for longer or more than intended?
  • Have you cut back or given up on activities that used to be interesting or important or gave you pleasure, to drink?
  • Have you spent a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or being sick or being hungover after drinking?
  • Have you wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but could not?
  • Have you spent a lot of time in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects?
  • Has alcohol interfered with your life- For example, in situations of taking care of your home or family, caused job troubles, or school problems?
  • Have you continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your friends or family?
  • Have you been in situations while drinking or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as swimming, engaging in unsafe sex, driving, using machinery, or walking in a dangerous area)?
  • Have you engaged in uncharacteristic behaviors such as lying or stealing, that may result in legal problems?
  • Have you continued to drink even though it was causing mental health problems such as feeling anxious, depressed, or adding to another health problem?
  • Have you found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want?
  • Have you found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, shakiness, trouble sleeping, sweating, restlessness, a racing heart, or a seizure?

Answering yes to any of these questions will not give a diagnosis, but it is strongly suggested you seek help to explore how alcohol related problems are affecting your life.

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