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Everything You Need to Know About Alcoholism


What is even alcoholism?

"Alcohol use disorder (which includes a level that's sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking."

As you can see, alcoholism is just the same as any other addiction. Alcoholics become dependent on alcohol, and have withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking for a little bit.

This disorder was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence.

Alcohol abuse encompasses a spectrum of unhealthy alcohol drinking behaviors, ranging from binge drinking to alcohol dependence, in extreme cases resulting in health problems for individuals and large scale social problems such as alcohol-related crimes(underage drinking, drunk driving, in worse cases : domestic violence, and child abuse)

Alcohol dependence is a previous psychiatric diagnosis in which an individual is physically or psychologically dependent upon alcohol.

In a medical context, we're talking about alcoholism, when two of the following conditions are present: a person drinks large amounts of alcohol over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use.

Effects of alcohol/alcoholism:

  • Brain: when alcohol affects the cerebellum area(this handles your body's motor skills) of the brain, you’re more likely to experience a loss of balance, as well as memory and emotional response issues.
  • Heart: over time, heavy drinking can weaken the heart, impacting how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to other vital organs in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels – a type of fat in your blood. High levels of triglycerides contribute to the risk of developing dangerous health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.Some of the early cardiovascular effects, like high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, can lead to a host of problems down the road. Long-term consequences of excessive drinking may include cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body.), stroke and sudden cardiac death.
  • Liver: when you drink, your liver breaks down alcohol and removes it from your blood. However, too much alcohol in a short period of time can overwhelm the metabolism process and lead to fatty liver. Fatty liver is a chronic condition that involves the buildup of bad fats in the liver. Obesity is one of the biggest factors of fatty liver. It can also cause liver failure and type 2 diabetes.Other serious liver complications associated with prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption are alcoholic hepatitis ( inflammation of the liver), fibrosis (the thickening and scarring of connective tissue) and cirrhosis ( late stage of fibrosis).
  • Pancreas: part of the digestive process and helps regulate your body’s blood sugar levels. Drinking alcohol over many years can start to negatively impact your pancreas and cause lasting health complications. Long-term alcohol abuse can eventually cause the blood vessels around the pancreas to swell, leading to pancreatitis. This greatly increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer – a type of cancer that spreads rapidly and is very dangerous. Symptoms of an acute pancreatic attack may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, fast heart rate and fever.

Short-term side effects of alcohol abuse:

  • Slurred speech
  • Vision impairment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Extreme shifts in mood
  • Memory lapses
  • Slowed breathing

Long-term side effects:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Respiratory infections
  • Cancer
  • Nerve Damage
  • Ulcers

The causes of alcoholism

A complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors influences the risk of the development of alcoholism. Genes that influence the metabolism of alcohol also influence the risk of alcoholism, as can a family history of alcoholism. There are also certain chemicals in the brain that can make you more susceptible to alcohol abuse. For instance, scientists have indicated that alcohol dependence may be associated with up to 51 genes in various chromosome regions. If these genes are passed down through generations, family members are much more prone to developing drinking problems. A younger age of onset of drinking is associated with an increased risk of the development of alcoholism, and about 40 percent of alcoholics will drink excessively by their late adolescence.

Severe childhood trauma is also associated with a general increase in the risk of drug dependency. Lack of peer and family support is associated with an increased risk of alcoholism developing. Children who are exposed to alcohol abuse from an early age are more at risk of falling into a dangerous drinking pattern.

A few fun(but are they really?) facts about alcoholism:

Roughly 43 percent of Americans have been exposed to alcoholism in the family.

An estimated one-third of alcohol abusers report experiencing a mental illness.

Excessive alcohol consumption costs the United States more than $220 billion each year which combines lost productivity, health care costs, criminal justice costs and other effects.

In 2014, roughly 16.3 million adults in the U.S. had an alcohol use disorder. Of those with an alcohol use disorder, only 8.9 percent received treatment.

Teenage alcohol abuse rates are climbing in the U.S. An estimated 855,000 adolescents – ages 12 to 17 – had alcohol use disorder in 2012.

The number of adults seeking treatment from a specialized alcohol facility has remained consistent in recent years – around 1.2 percent.

Teens and alcohol

  • In 2012, nearly 3/4 of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than 1/3 (37%) have done so by 8th grade.
  • According to a study by Columbia University, underage drinkers account for 11.4% of all of the alcohol consumed in the U.S.
  • The average age teen boys first try alcohol is age 11, for teen girls it’s 13.
  • Nearly 10 million young people, ages 12 to 20, reported that they've consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.
  • Teens who start drinking before age 15 years are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the legal age of 21.
  • In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by teens under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
  • Teens who drink heavily are three times more likely to try and hurt themselves (self-harm, attempt suicide etc.) than those who don't.
  • 9 out of 10 American teens report that drinking is not worth the consequences it can cause.
  • The 3 leading causes of death for 15 to 24-year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides – alcohol is a leading factor in all 3.
  • In 2010, 56% of drivers aged 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
  • The rate of current alcohol consumption increases with age, according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2% at age 12 to 21% at age 16, and 55% at age 20.

The reasons of teenage alcoholism:

- social pressure, and seeing other people in their immediate close circle using a lot of different substances(alcohol, smoking, vaping, and even drugs)

- media: 45 percent of teens agree with the statement “Movies and TV shows make drugs seem like an ok thing to do.”

- escape, and self- medication: some teens abuse prescription medicine to manage stress or regulate their lives. Sometimes they abuse prescription stimulants (used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to provide additional energy and the ability to focus when they’re studying or taking tests. Others are abusing prescription pain relievers and tranquilizers to cope with academic, social or emotional stress.

- boredom, and rebellion: some of them can’t tolerate being alone, and have trouble keeping themselves occupied or crave excitement are prime candidates for substance use. Some teens abuse prescription medicine to party and get high. Hallucinogens (ex. mushrooms, LSD) are also escape drugs, often used by young people who feel misunderstood and may long to escape to a more idealistic, kind world. Smoking cigarettes can be a form of rebellion.

- misinformation: nearly every teenager has friends who claim to be experts on various recreational substances, and they’re happy to assure them that the risks are minimal.


Warning signs of alcoholism

  • alcohol craving, which causes a dire need to consume alcohol at any time of the day
  • nausea, constant quivering, perspiration, and anxiety when forced to stop alcohol consumption. Combined together, these are called “withdrawal symptoms”
  • physical and mental dependence on alcohol
  • making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal
  • lack of tolerance towards people around and their activities, becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
  • lack of control over one’s activities, choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations
  • frequent hangover and laziness
  • frequent blackouts
  • insomnia
  • irritation about trivial things
  • losing interest in normal activities of life

Recognizing alcoholism

One tool is known as CAGE – a questionnaire that measures the severity of a drinking problem. If you answer “yes” to two or more CAGE questions, you should seek professional medical assistance.

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover?

How to help an alcoholic

  1. Learn about the addiction itself: Before you do anything, it’s important to know whether your friend or loved one has an alcohol addiction.
  2. Practice what you're going to say: Let the person you care for know that you’re available and that you care. Try to formulate statements that are positive and supportive. Avoid being negative, hurtful, or presumptuous. Prepare yourself for every response. No matter the reaction, you should stay calm and assure your person that they have your respect and support.
  3. Pick the right time and place: Choose the right time to have this important conversation. Have the conversation in a place where you know you’ll have quiet and privacy. You’ll also want to avoid any interruptions so that you both have each other’s full attention.
  4. Offer your support: Realize that you can’t force someone who doesn’t want to go into treatment. All you can do is offer your help. It’s up to them to decide if they’ll take it. Be nonjudgmental, empathetic, and sincere. Imagine yourself in the same situation and what your reaction might be.

Things you shouldn't do:

  • Don’t drink around your friend or loved one, even in social situations.
  • Don’t take on all their responsibilities.
  • Don’t provide financial support unless the money is going directly to treatment.
  • Don’t tell them what to do or what’s best for them.

Scary statistics

  • 1 in 8 American adults fulfill the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • 56% of American adults indicated that they’d had a drink within the last month.
  • For students in college, the alcohol facts show that almost 150,000 of them develop an alcohol-related health problem each year.
  • 33.1% of 15-year-olds report having had at least one drink so far in their lifetime.
  • More than 5.3 million adult women have an alcohol use disorder.
  • About 20% of the adult population in the US drinks alcohol as a way to fall asleep.
  • The collective risk of obstructive sleep apnea in individuals who consume alcohol increased by 25%.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous mentions a success rate of 50%, with 25% staying sober after some relapses.
  • 80% of college students consume alcohol. 50% of them binge drink.
  • Alcohol is a major contributor to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions.
  • Over 10% of kids in the US live with a parent that has alcohol issues.
  • Globally, alcohol abuse was the fifth major risk factor in 2010 for disability and premature death.
  • Drinking and driving accounts for over 30% of all driving deaths a year.
  • Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 individuals annually.

If you need help

  • Parents Helpline - YoungMinds
    Worried about a child or young person? Contact the Parents Helpline for free, confidential advice via the phone, email or webchat.
  • Social care and support guide - NHS
    If you or someone you know needs help with day-to-day living because of illness or disability, this website explains your options and where you can get support.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Lili Zoltai


Lili Zoltai (author) from Hungary on September 26, 2020:

Thank you for reading!

Helna on September 26, 2020:

Interesting information about alcoholism. May God bless you and your work. Jesus Loves you

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