Alcoholism is the addiction to the consumption of alcoholic beverages or the mental health issues and compulsive behaviors that result from alcohol dependency. Genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors contribute to the influence of this chronic disease. People with alcoholism display many signs, but the symptoms vary from one person to the next.
Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence. The disease includes four general symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical addiction, and tolerance. People with the disease tend to have a strong urge to drink, are not able to stop drinking, and need to drink higher amounts of alcohol than others. They are also prone to withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after they stop drinking.
Alcoholism is a disease. The craving that those with the disease feel for alcohol can be as intense as the need for food or water. People with this addiction may continue to drink, despite what is going on in their lives. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic. Both a person's genes and lifestyle influence their risk of developing it.
The risk of developing alcoholism can increase if it runs in your family. That said, not everyone who has family members with alcoholism will develop the disease. Likewise, someone who has no family history of addiction could still develop the disease. Knowing your family history can help you take steps to prevent being impacted by alcohol.
Similar to cancer, alcoholism has no cure. Even if someone with an addiction to alcohol hasn't been drinking for a long time, there is still the possibility of a relapse. Most people who are recovering from alcoholism choose to refrain from drinking alcohol completely. Their recovery therapy may also include staying away from bars or restaurants with spirits and finding new pastimes and friends, in some instances.
Treatment options for people with alcoholism are available. Treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help people stop drinking. The type of treatment best for you depends on your situation and goals. Some treatment programs are inpatient, while others are outpatient. Having a support team as you transition is essential, too.
Three oral medications are currently approved to treat alcohol dependence. The drugs act in the brain to reduce the craving for alcohol after someone has stopped drinking. These are shown to help individuals reduce their drinking, avoid relapse to heavy drinking, and achieve and maintain abstinence.
The treatment works for many people. However, like other chronic illnesses, there are varying levels of success when it comes to treatment. Some people can refrain from drinking for long periods of time with no relapses while others struggle to remain sober. Generally, the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay dry.
Alcoholism is only one type of alcohol problem. Alcohol abuse can be just as harmful and is described as drinking too much or too often but without chemical or mental dependence on alcohol. Similarly, those who abuse alcohol may not be able to fulfill work, school, or family responsibilities because of their drinking.
Problems with alcohol do not discriminate. Gender, race, sexuality, and nationality do not impact how likely you are to develop the disease. The age you begin drinking can play a factor; those who start drinking at an early age are at a much higher risk for developing alcohol problems at some point in their lives compared to someone who starts drinking at age 21 or later.
You can help determine if you or a loved one has a drinking problem by answering a few questions including whether or not you feel you should cut down on your drinking or if you’ve ever felt sad or guilty about your drinking. If you answer yes to either, you may choose to see a doctor to determine if a drinking problem exists and the plan the best course of action.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.