Alcoholism is a disease of the brain that affects behavior, and more importantly, the spirit. It also doesn’t affect just the alcoholic but those who care about the person. It’s a 24/7 disease that doesn’t take a break, and worst of all, it’s a lifelong challenge. It damages relationships and the health of the individual, but fortunately, it’s treatable with the right treatment program.
The Scale of Alcoholism
An estimated 17 million adult-aged people (7.2 percent of Americans) are addicted to alcohol, with 24.6 percent admitting they engaged in drinking in the month prior, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Also, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that six people die daily from alcohol poisoning, which is the effect of drinking too much, too quickly. Alcoholism makes up 30 percent of alcohol poisoning deaths. Other statistics include:
- 5.9 percent of deaths are attributed to alcohol consumption worldwide.
- At least 10 percent of children live with a parent who may be alcoholic.
- An average of 200 billion dollars is spent annually on alcohol abuse in the U.S.
- Alcohol abuse contributes to over two hundred diseases and injury-related conditions.
Sadly, as of 2012, only 8 percent of alcoholics get treatment for their addiction. Eighty-eight thousand die from their drinking problem, making it the third leading cause of preventable death.
Alcoholism, Dependence, and Withdrawal
Different terms that refer to alcohol addiction include the traditional term of being an alcoholic, where someone is physically and psychologically dependent on drinking. The new term used is called Alcohol Use Disorder. There’s also alcohol dependency or having a drinking problem. Whatever the terminology, if you have a problem controlling your alcohol use or can’t stop, it’s most likely an addiction.
Several organizations have labeled alcohol addiction as progressive disease or disorder, meaning the more you drink, the more it will destroy your health. Although it’s self-inflicted, it still meets the criteria for being a disease. It’s chronic, can go in remission and out, and has reflective symptoms that require specialized treatments.
You can develop a high tolerance to drinking, so a vicious cycle of alcohol use, getting drunk, and needing to drink more to feel the effects sets in. Eventually, it leads to harder drinks to get the person drunk over time. When alcohol leaves a person’s system, withdrawal effects can be severe to even life-threatening—if proper treatment and support aren’t available or apparent. Some of these symptoms include mild to severe:
- The Sweats and Shakes
- Elevated blood pressure
- Delirium Tremens or the DTs
- Disorientation, confusion
- Irregular heartbeat/heart problems
Effects of Alcoholism
There are many consequences to drinking, such as financial problems, estranged personal relationships, loss of employment, legal issues, and health problems. It can lead to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, destroying relationships in the process. Family members are affected most of all. Several diseases can be life-long or life-threatening; they include Type II diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, increased risk of heart disease, as well as cancer, and death.
Because alcohol is a depressant, it can be especially detrimental for those who are depressed and may attempt suicide or other self-destructive behavior
Treatment for Alcoholism
Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction is a must for the person and their support system, which includes friends and family. It needs to be done in a controlled and supportive environment to be successful, but it absolutely can be, when choosing the right treatment center. Alcohol rehab includes a comprehensive program such as therapy, activities, and treatments that help take your mind off drinking. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in the process of recovery, but a pivotal one that should be at the forefront of addiction.
Once someone knows they have a problem, it’s much easier to begin the journey of recovery with them. It takes time, effort, commitment, and patience with yourself or a loved one to begin a challenging program that can lead to healing and a new life.