Alcoholism is a disease process that causes physical dependence on alcohol. The alcoholic continues to drink in spite of the negative consequences caused by continued use. Social and physical problems begin to mount until they become problematic. Alcohol abuse is the use of alcohol to extremes without the dependence, although the social and health problems may still be an issue. Alcoholism is a treatable disease. The most common form of treatment is group therapy in a residential rehab facility. Medications to relieve cravings and underlying mental and emotional issues have become popular.
Signs of Alcoholism
Before treatment, the alcoholic must admit they have a drinking problem. The closer they get to rock bottom, the easier it is to talk them into seeking help. Knowing the signs of alcoholism aids in identifying the problem, some signs of alcoholism are:
- solitary drinking
- unable to stop drinking, after the first one
- blacking out
- losing interest in activities and hobbies
- compulsion to drink
- irritability when needing a drink
- keeping extra alcohol hidden
- becoming intoxicated to feel good or drinking to feel “normal”
- legal problems
- problems with relationships
- developing a tolerance to alcohol
- physical withdrawal symptoms if you don’t drink
Alcohol abuse may cause some of the same signs as dependence, but the compulsion to drink and physical withdrawals are absent. The alcoholic can’t control their drinking but the abuser can control it.
Reasons For Alcoholism
Alcoholism is insidious in its onset. Gradually, alcohol causes a chemical imbalance in the brain. Drinking increases dopamine levels, which is responsible for the pleasurable effects of alcohol. Alcohol eventually depletes the dopamine in the brain and more alcohol is needed to feel the euphoric effect. This lack of dopamine is responsible for the cravings experienced by the alcoholic.
Genetics also plays a role in alcoholism. Children of alcoholic parents are more prone to have drinking problems. Genetic inclination along with the lack of coping skills can increase the risk even more. Emotional instability and stress contribute to the problem considerably. Low self esteem, associating with people that drink, and glamorizing the act of drinking, lowers an at risk individuals inhibitions, leading to alcoholism.
Treatment Options for Alcoholics
Due to denial, alcoholics seldom seek treatment on their own. Intervention by family members or friends may be required to persuade them to seek help. Issues that are caused by alcohol addiction must be addressed. Liver disease is a common problem. Tests should be performed to rule out pathology of the liver.
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