What is alcoholism – definition and how to treat it
There are several definitions of alcoholism, which all agree as follows: alcoholism is an addiction characterized by repeated consumption of alcohol (regardless of its type or amount), which causes a person both health and social problems. There are also problems in the family and professionally.
What are the first symptoms of alcoholism?
In order to establish alcoholism, it is necessary to establish at least 3 of the following criteria:
1. There is a strong craving for alcohol.
2. Loss of control over drinking.
3. Tolerance to alcohol first increases (more and more alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect).
4. Withdrawal symptoms (trembling hands, sweating, nausea, discomfort and anxiety) occur when person stops drinking. These symptoms can occur after just an hour.
5. Despite being aware of the harmful effects of alcohol on your body and your life, a person continues to drink.
6. All previous interests and activities, family, work and other obligations are put in the background. Alcohol becomes the number one preoccupation in that person’s life.
How does one become an alcoholic?
Alcohol has historically been accepted in many societies. It was used as food, but also as a medicine – for various ailments. Its use in various religious and other rites is well known. Even today, there is a custom to drink “a glass” on some important occasion.
However, in psychiatry, alcohol use differs from abuse and alcohol dependence (alcoholism). When alcohol begins to be abused, it is usually reflected in the risk to a person’s health and leads to certain problems in the person’s behavior, as well as relationships with other people.
It is commonly thought that alcoholics are the ones who drink a lot. But quantity is not what defines an alcoholic. It is defined by the loss of control.
Types of alcoholics
Alcoholics are most generally classified as daily or periodic (those who drink only at certain times of the day or on certain occasions, such as weekends).
There are other classifications. One of them is the classification of E. M. Jellinek into 5 types of alcoholics, depending on whether there is a loss of control, or how difficult it is for a person to abstain from alcohol.
In the past, alcoholism was associated with certain professions, which were considered to are ’more alcoholic’ than others …
It was later established that this is not the case. Alcoholism is not related to the profession, nor to other categories of the population. It’s present everywhere. However, there are some specifics for certain population categories …
Alcoholism in young people
More than half of alcoholics tried this substance for the first time in their family. There are several reasons for this.
Family (as well as the environment in general) is one of the important factors for the development of addiction, including alcohol addiction.
On the other hand, young people are extremely susceptible to the influence of their peers, and adolescence is the age when they are especially vulnerable. They need to experiment. They go through numerous and rapid physical changes that they have to get used to.
All this makes them susceptible to the influence of alcohol, which has an unpredictable effect on the nervous system of adolescents, considering that it is still in development.
Addiction treatment facilities are increasingly registering women as alcoholics, although men have previously been at the forefront of this addiction.
Society condemns women who drink more than men, so they often drink in secret, although there are those who drink in society.
The specificity of alcoholism in women is the occurrence of secondary alcoholism. Namely, women develop a tendency to alcohol due to other problems, which are psychological in nature.
Particular characteristic of alcoholism in women is the influence of alcohol in pregnancy. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause physical and developmental damage in children whose mothers drank during pregnancy.
Alcoholism in the family
Alcohol dependence leaves a mark not only on one person, but on the whole family and society.
Some experts believe that alcoholism is the biggest problem in the family because it can lead to the complete breakup of the family.
In an alcoholic family, everyone is thrown out of their family role. There are financial problems, difficulties in communication, expression of emotions … Sexual relations between partners are also disturbed.
The price for the treatment of alcoholism is very high. Children suffer greatly from the consequences: almost half of children with mental health problems have alcoholics in their families. The fact that three quarters of all alcoholics had someone in their family addicted to this substance shows how much alcoholism is a disease transmitted from generation to generation.
There are various problems that children can have due to the alcoholism of their parents and thus the unstable relationship they have with him. They range from problems in development and mental functioning, to problems in learning (and in school). All the way to the problem of social adaptation.
Can alcoholism be inherited?
Like diabetes, the risk of developing alcohol dependence is inherited.
If you have someone in your family who is an alcoholic, your chances of becoming one are twice as high.
However, the fact that alcoholism is inherited is not a decisive factor. Environmental influence plays a huge role.
Apart from genetics and the environment, family also plays a huge role. Families are becoming dysfunctional due to this addictive disease. All this has a huge impact on the growth of children.
Stages of alcoholism
There are several stages of the disease itself and those that introduce it. Sometimes it is not easy to distinguish them because not all characteristic symptoms follow each phase.
Also, alcoholism develops slowly and gradually, which is why the family sometimes notices signs of the disease only when it progresses.
The stages of alcoholism differ in the extent to which the disease has developed, that is the consequences it leaves on a person.
From the last phase, when addiction has developed, it is not possible to regain control over alcohol consumption at any time in your life.
Advanced alcoholism causes a number of health problems, some of which cannot be cured even by stopping drinking. In addition to alcohol poisoning, there are diseases of the liver from alcohol, but also damage to the heart and kidneys, esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas …
Physical consequences also occur due to traffic accidents and injuries at work, which are often under the influence of alcohol.
Since alcohol has the greatest impact on the brain (central nervous system), in addition to the liver, there are numerous consequences on the psychological level.
For example, due to nerve cell damage, alcoholic amnesia occurs. It can happen that a healthy person intolerant to alcohol does not remember what happened while he was under the influence of alcohol.
This is different from amnesia that a person has in an advanced stage of alcoholism. In addition to impaired mental functions (such as memory), long-term alcohol consumption causes changes in both personality and character. Serious psychiatric consequences, such as psychosis or depression, may occur.
Alcoholism treatment facilities usually provide detoxification services, which serve to repair the health consequences of alcoholism and which are the basis for its further treatment.
Liver disease from alcohol
Excessive alcohol damage damages the liver. Although the effect of alcohol on the body depends on the person, as well as on how much and how often one drinks, women are more susceptible to it.
There are two stages of alcohol-induced liver disease.
1. Fatty liver (alcoholic hepatosis) – accumulation of fat in this organ. This problem can be alleviated by stopping drinking.
2. Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) – the destruction of liver cells under the influence of alcohol, which leads to irreversible consequences.
Why do people have a hangover?
Alcohol needs to be processed in the body and excreted within 24 hours from the end of consumption. During the recovery period of the body from the effects of alcohol, a hangover occurs.
Hangover implies numerous physical and mental ailments: strong thirst, headache, nausea and burning in the esophagus, but also fatigue, malaise. Repentance, guilt, fear, and even depression are present among the psychological symptoms (for example, if amnesia occurs). Many people are unable to work, either physically or mentally, during a hangover.
Although non-alcoholics also have hangovers (especially when their body is not used to alcohol), alcoholics have more severe and complex problems.
One of the reasons that hangover occurs is dehydration. Alcohol makes us run out of water quickly. It also irritates the gastric mucosa, which produces some of the symptoms. However, alcohol itself does not cause headaches, but the ingredients that contain alcoholic beverages (especially, say, sweet wines and liqueurs).
Also, our nervous system is relaxed for a short time while drinking alcohol, and after consuming it, it enters the phase of irritation, which is why other symptoms of hangover that we mentioned appear.
Alcohol is both a disease of the family and a disease of society. It affects not only the person who drinks, but also his family members, partners, as well as society as a whole.
Even if only one person in the family or marriage drinks regularly, there are accompanying problems. Financial difficulties, separation from certain circles of society …
Regular alcohol use is sometimes accompanied by violent behavior, which also affects the family.
For an individual who drinks regularly, this often affects work, so days off are taken due to a hangover. An alcoholic is unproductive, absent from work, work injuries and job loss can happen to him.
Due to incidents that are a consequence of drinking (at work or outside of it), there is separation from society, and even problems of a legal nature.
At the social level, the connection between alcohol and criminogenic behavior has been established.
Can alcoholism be cured?
Successful treatment begins with abstinence from alcohol. Then it is important to maintain abstinence, and this is done by various therapeutic means. The goal is for the alcoholic to fully recover and socialize again.
Being an addiction, alcoholism must always be kept under control. Alcoholics must abstain from alcohol forever, because otherwise they would be in danger of returning to their old life style even if they try a single drop.
True healing is possible only with intensive work, which is necessary if the goal is to have a stable and normal life.
Alcohol withdrawal process
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and are called abstinence crises. The physical ones include poor appetite and weakness in general, sweating, headache, disturbed sleep, nausea. They are accompanied by depression, nervousness and mood swings, in advanced stages and hallucinations or epileptic seizures. They usually occur 12 to 48 hours after alcohol consumption.
After a person stops drinking, addiction treatment center starts the treatment of alcoholism with detoxication.
The next phase in the treatment of alcoholism is to build additional motivation for treatment. In order for the alcoholic to persevere in his decision, the LORIJEN Addiction Center offers professional support in the form of experts of various profiles.
How does alcoholism treatment look like? Psychologists, psychiatrists and other experts, over a long period of time, help alcoholics change their attitudes, habits, thoughts, behavior. And thus improve their lives in a direction that would seem unthinkable to them before starting treatment.
Prevention of return to alcoholism
Treatment means, first of all, a change in behavior and lifestyle. That is not easy, but the support of the environment helps a lot. In addition to treatment sponsors (family members or friends), a club of treated alcoholics can also provide assistance. They are aimed at fighting alcoholism by using social support, relying on human capacities for self-help. The most famous in the world are Alcoholics Anonymous.
When it comes to the treatment of alcoholism, an abstinence crisis is expected. Alcoholics should not blame themselves when they fall into a crisis, but with professional help they should master techniques that will help them recognize the crisis and defend themselves with the learned techniques. Their treatment sponsors will help them with that.
If you or someone close to you needs professional help in the fight against alcohol, contact us immediately at email@example.com or visit the link