Alcoholism

We are used to hearing about Alcoholism quite often, we even use the term in a light way most of the time to refer to someone who just likes to drink, but it is a really serious disease and should not be taken lightly. In the scientific article ‘The Definition of Alcoholism’ Morse RM, Flavin DK, published on Jama Network Journal, a 23-member multidisciplinary committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine conducted a 2-year study of the definition of Alcoholism.

Therefore, the committee agreed to define Alcoholism “as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.” [1]

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States

According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people ages of 12 and older had AUD. This number includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This problem threatens a big number of young people too, as stated by the same source, an estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 177 had AUD. This number includes 163,000 males and 251,000 females. 

An estimated 95,000 people, approximately 68,000 men, and 27,000 women die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity. [2]

Causes of Alcoholism

It is common to think this condition arises from a person who simply does not know how to control their alcohol consumption and is trapped in a vicious circle, but according to the scientific piece ‘The many causes of Alcoholism’ Cohen, S. Published on the Drug Abuse & Alcoholism Newsletter,  there are three main causes of this disease: biological, physiological, and sociocultural. [3]

  • Biological causes may be:
    • Genetic: “inherited susceptibility to alcohol’s acute effects, impaired ability to catabolize ingested alcohol, or difficulty in dealing with anxiety, frustration, and depression”. 
    • Biochemical: sensitivity to insulin, episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia, or adrenal insufficiency.
    • Or endocrine: persistently low levels of androgenic hormones.
  • Among the psychological causes of Alcoholism are:
    • Need for tension relief and anxiety control
    • Personality disorders
    • Psychodynamic factors 
    • Learning: tension reduction from drinking provides a positive reinforcement to continue drinking
    • Role modeling: peer example or occupational pressures
  • Culture-specific drinking traditions, and those stresses and conflicts experienced by certain subcultures also contribute to overindulgence in alcohol
Alcoholism Detox Treatment
Alcoholism Detox Treatment is a critical part of addiction rehabilitation success

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

The effects of a drink of alcohol can vary a lot from one person to the next, but it usually takes about an hour for your body to metabolize one drink. Alcohol stays in the body for different periods of time depending on how much you drank, your body weight, and your sex. Factors that influence how quickly alcohol leaves the system include your age, height and weight, and amount of food in your stomach at the time you drink.

But Alcoholism can affect multiple organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and even the immune system.

  • Brain: alcohol interferes 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. 
  • Heart: drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
    • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
    • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
    • Stroke
    • High blood pressure 
  • Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:
    • Steatosis, or fatty liver
    • Alcoholic hepatitis
    • Fibrosis
    • Cirrhosis
  • Pancreas: alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
  • Immune System: drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  People who drink chronically are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcoholism
Blonde young woman lying in bed deadly drunken holding near-empty bottle of booze. Female intoxicated with alcohol after tough night party. Alcoholism, habitual drunkenness, pernicious habit concept

Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Alcohol poisoning occurs when you consume so much alcohol that your brain and other vital organs can no longer function properly. Alcohol poisoning can lead to coma or even death.

People who drink a lot over a relatively short period may experience a decreased urge to breathe as their blood alcohol level increases. This can cause the BAC to rise even further, leading to severe damage. People with Alcohol Poisoning need immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning symptoms vary from person to person based on body weight, age, gender, and overall health. Alcohol poisoning can affect teenagers and young adults. Alcohol poisoning is more common among males than females and the risk increases as people get older.

Alcohol poisoning causes decreased heart rate, low blood pressure, confusion, vomiting, slow or irregular breathing, blue-tinged skin, or pale skin, sometimes causing hypothermia and leading to unconsciousness.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

As stated by the specialized web Drinkaware.co.uk and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these are the signs to be aware of in terms of this condition: 

  • Appearing intoxicated more regularly
  • Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
  • An inability to say no to alcohol
  • Becoming secretive or dishonest
  • Drinking more, or longer than one intended
  • Wanting to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but haven’t been able to do so 
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over the aftereffects
  • Experiencing craving, a strong need, or urge to drink
  • Founding that drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interferes with taking care of your home or family, job troubles or school problems
  • Continuing drinking even though it was causing trouble with family or friends
  • Giving up or cutting back on activities that are important or interesting to you, in order to drink
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)
  • Continuing to drink even though it was making you feel depressed, anxious, or adding to another health problem, or after having had a memory blackout
  • Having to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want. Or finding that your usual number of drinks have much less effect than before
  • Finding that when the effects of alcohol are wearing off, you have withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating [4].

Treatment for alcoholism

When it comes to Alcoholism treatment, it is normal to think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but it becomes difficult to think of more options of treatment for this condition. In fact, there are a variety of treatment methods currently available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are three types of treatment: 

  • Behavioral Treatments: are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
  • Medications: Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
  • Mutual-Support Groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.

Reclaim your life from Alcoholism, We Level Up Center California

Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential. [5]

Sources: 

[1] Morse RM, Flavin DK. The Definition of Alcoholism. JAMA. 1992;268(8):1012–1014. [2] Alcohol Facts and Statistics – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [3] Cohen, S. (1975). The many causes of alcoholism. Drug Abuse & Alcoholism Newsletter [4] Alcoholism: signs, symptoms and treatment – Drinkaware.co.uk [5] Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism