Alcohol dependence is characterized by a strong craving for alcohol (Teague, Mackenzie, Rosenthal, p. 210). This is also known as alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder. Most would not consider Alcoholism to be a chronic disease amongst humans. After all, isn’t the consumption of alcohol a personal choice? Alcoholism is not merely a chronic disease or choice. Alcoholism also affects the extended individuals surrounding the alcoholic, often ending in heartbreaking dialectical tensions. This is a chronic illness that can not only damage yourself, mentally and physically, but it can also harm others. The chance of a person who has had their lives touched by alcoholism is an enormous oddity.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse, the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 86.3 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70.0 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 55.3 percent reported that they drank in the past month (Alcohol Facts and Statistics). Of the percentage of people that have tried alcohol in the United States, according to the 2018 NSDUH, 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older (5.8 percent of this age group3) had Alcohol Use Disorder. This includes 9.2 million men (7.6 percent of men in this age group3) and 5.3 million women (4.1 percent of women in this age group3). With this astounding percentage in those over 18 years of age, it is not an astonishment that Alcoholism is the third preventable leading cause of death amongst the people of The United States.
As reported by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both (About Chronic Diseases). Alcoholism occurs at the point in which your body builds up a dependency on alcohol. Although there is no definitive consensus as to why one would develop this alcohol dependency, some factors can include individual, socio-cultural and individual psychological factors. Biological components in your family history also are attributed as further causes for potential chronic alcohol dependence.
For some individuals, alcohol can give off feelings of pleasure in the amygdala portion of the brain, encouraging your brain to repeat the behavior. The release of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens portion of the brain is responsible for this encouragement by tantalizing the pleasure receptors to our brains. Repetitive behaviors of abundant alcohol use can produce additional vulnerabilities to developing alcoholism. If these genes are passed down through generations, family members are much more prone to developing drinking problems (Causes of Alcoholism). Family dysfunction in conjunction may also increase the likelihood of alcoholism as well. In the United States, more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study (Alcohol Facts and Statistics). Chronic alcoholism may also cause one detriment to an alcoholic’s marriages, personal relationships and can lead to financial troubles. Life for an alcoholic places consuming alcohol a priority once they have reached a level of dependency.
Changes in your moods or behaviors are not solely responsible for symptoms of Alcoholism. Alcoholic symptoms start when an alcoholic can no longer control the level of alcohol they consume. This overindulgent of alcohol affects your brain by interfering with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination (Alcohol’s Effects on the Body). Drinking copious amounts of alcohol over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing health problems including: Cardiomyopathy, Arrhythmias, Stroke and High blood pressure. Heavy drinking additionally corrodes the liver and can lead to a variety of problems including: Steatosis, Alcoholic hepatitis, Fibrosis, and Cirrhosis. Likewise, alcohol leads to pancreatic issues including pancreatitis and hyperglycemia. Alcoholism can also produce Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes.
In addition to this slew of health issues that alcoholism can cause for you, perhaps one of the most disconcerting for most people is cancer. Based on extensive reviews of research studies, there is a strong scientific consensus of an association between alcohol drinking and several types of cancer. The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists the consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. The research evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing alcohol-associated cancers (Alcohol’s Effects on the Body). Alcoholism has been correlated to cancers including: Head and Neck Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Liver Cancer, Breast Cancer, and Colorectal Cancer. Cancerous symptoms can develop due to a weakened immune system from excessive alcohol consumption.
Although alcoholism is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, only about 5.0 percent of youth who had Alcoholism in the past year received treatment. This includes 5.6 percent of males and 4.6 percent of females with Alcoholism in the 18 years old and up (Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States). In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths, 31 percent of which are overall driving fatalities (Alcohol-Related Deaths). Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The impaired judgment experienced with getting behind the wheel and alcohol consumption is responsible for one death every 50 minutes for The United States people. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion (Impaired Driving: Get the Facts).
Given these statistics, how may one go about seeking treatment when enough is enough? After recognizing the signs of alcoholism there are many avenues one can take in the steps to recovery in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Treatment options for alcoholism include: Brief Interventions, Inpatient Treatment Programs, Outpatient Treatment Programs, Support Groups and self-help, and self-harm reduction. Behavioral treatment is conjointly available as another form of therapy. Behavioral therapy is aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling programs. Behavioral therapy is led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial (Types of Treatment). This type of behavior therapy is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Perhaps the most recognized form of therapy for alcoholism is a self-help program called Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous progression of recovery of alcoholism through a twelve-step program. This twelve-step program promotes steps that are tied in with a religious set of values and may not be suited for everybody. Alcoholics anonymous boasts from their Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book citing a 50% success rate with 25% remaining sober after some relapses. However, since many of the group’s published success rates are provided by AA itself—and because some members choose to remain anonymous or don’t want to admit to relapsing—there isn’t enough impartial data to measure those rates (Scientific Support and Success Rates). For some driving under the influence cases, a recovery program is made mandatory.
For those suffering from alcoholism and refusing to recognize the signs of their addictions, recovery is a hard step to reach. For cases like this, staging an intervention may help. An intervention is when a group of loved ones rallies around the alcoholic in an effort to get them to see the error of their ways. Often times and intervention may be followed by Inpatient Treatment Programs or Outpatient Treatment Programs. The difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment programs is how long a patient must remain in the facility where they have the procedure done. Inpatient care requires overnight hospitalization in which medical care and emotional support are provided. Patients must stay at the medical facility where their procedure was done (which is usually a hospital) for at least one night. This can often be a pricey solution for those seeking care for their chronic alcoholism.
As my understanding of my personal risk factors of obtaining alcoholism expands with a logical perspective. Reducing the chances of becoming chronically diseased with alcoholism for myself is important. Partaking in an alcoholic beverage is considered normal and common in my family and social circle. My immediate family members also have many alcohol-dependent members, including alcoholics. My habits towards alcohol consumption changed during a un-related health issue that occurred for me. After this occurred, my personal alcohol and my alcoholic consumption slowed. This was due to gastrointestinal issues stemming from a bacterial infestation of Helicobacter Pylori. The infestation of Helicobacter Pylori in my stomach has led me to terminate alcoholic consumption from my life. Not consuming alcohol has been a key step in assuring that I myself, do not succumb to alcoholism. This is also an attempt to decrease my risk of stomach cancer as well.
If I should choose to partake in having an alcoholic beverage, following the recommended dietary guidelines of alcohol consumption is a step in the right direction in the prevention of alcoholism. This will help me not engage in the over consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a precautionary measure, my husband and I do not buy alcoholic beverages for our home or social activities hosted in our home. In recent years I have also started to limit my time with those who do choose to partake in drinking alcoholic beverages in social settings. Once someone is drunk, I will usually leave the space where this is occurring. My lifestyle also excludes places of entertainment like bars or clubs. Becoming educated on health is another way in which I avoid alcoholism. By understanding what can cause me further detriment and how I can better my health, I can be sure to avoid suffering from the chronic disease of alcoholism.
After further research on alcoholism, a detailed plan for myself seems like a hard plan to adapt to based on my lifestyle. I have been a musician for many years and alcoholism is prevalent amongst most in this scene. This examination helped facilitate the knowledge that disassociation with those who consume alcohol is a step towards not becoming an alcoholic, which is hard as a musician. In my life, this is not something I am willing to give up, as this would remove the three friends I have from my life. Most of the people (adults) in my life are social drinkers and as I am realizing now, some may be suffering from alcoholism, which is disheartening. As with any plan to avoid chronic diseases, a proper diet and exercise routine is also always helpful. To be sure that I maintain a proper diet, I have made it a requirement that my household uphold a diet of organic foods and non-steroidal meats. I will be incorporating whole wheat foods into my diet as well. My plan to avoid alcoholism in addition to these steps will involve exercise by walking my three large dogs once a day instead of just a few times a week.
- Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (2019). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- About Chronic Diseases | CDC. (2020). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm
- Galbicsek, C. (2020). Causes of Alcoholism – Is Alcoholism Hereditary? – Alcohol Rehab Guide. Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/causes/
- Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. (2011). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
- Impaired Driving: Get the Facts | Motor Vehicle Safety | CDC Injury Center. (2020). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
- Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help. (2019). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help
- The 12 Steps Of AA | Alcoholics Anonymous Program. (2020). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.alcohol.org/alcoholics-anonymous/
- Facts about moderate drinking | CDC. (2020). Retrieved 16 March 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm