2020-10-28 Post by : Kate Alcohol

What is Alcoholism?


Alcoholism hurts both sufferers and society in many ways. For sufferers, alcohol addiction leads to many short terms and long term mental and physical health problems. These people will put on excessive weight which increases their odds of developing diabetes.

Sufferers may experience insomnia, depression, and anxiety as a result of their drinking. People affected by alcohol addiction are unlikely to consume enough nutrients that are required for healthy living. In short, excessive drinking drags down sufferers' health and quality of life. 

Alcohol addiction affects sufferers' mental health in many ways. These people will become utterly preoccupied with drinking, meaning they do not have time for anything else. It's no wonder that alcoholism is often accompanied by job loss and the break down in families affected by this blight. 

Reasons why people drink

Many factors can increase the risk of alcohol abuse. People may turn to alcohol for one reason and gradually develop a dependency on drinking. For example, drinking during difficult times – a death in the family or job loss – can potentially trigger long-term alcohol abuse.

While there are various reasons as to why people start drinking, some of the most common are to:  

Relieve stress

Relying on alcohol to reduce daily life stressors can impact the likelihood of developing alcoholism. Since alcohol is a depressant and a sedative, drinking produces feelings of pleasure. However, frequent drinking builds tolerance, requiring you to consume more alcohol in order to achieve the same effects.

Feel good

Consuming alcohol can provide some people with a break from reality. It offers a sense of relief from underlying issues your mind may be trying to escape from. However, continual alcohol use to get through the day or week can turn into a serious drinking problem.

Cope with loss

Losing a family member or friend can take a toll on you emotionally, physically and mentally. Alcohol can ease the grief you are feeling and is used to get through difficult times. Depending on alcohol, even temporarily, can spiral into a drinking problem.

Overcome anxiety

Some people are naturally anxious, causing them to perpetually worry. Drinking lowers an individual's inhibitions and makes them more comfortable in social situations. Over time though, this can lead to addictive behaviors.

Lack of Connection

Many people drink because they don't feel adequately connected to others. They believe that alcohol will either feel the void or possibly make it easier for them to forge new bonds. However, the opposite typically ends up being true.


Shame is one of the most difficult emotions for many to cope with, and it is also one of the most traumatic. While alcohol can temporarily mask shame with false feelings, it also causes many individuals to engage in reckless or foolish behaviors that can later cause them to feel even greater shame, which can cause a downward spiral.


Alcoholism treatment experts are seeing some type of trauma in virtually every patient that they treat. There are many forms of trauma, but they all painful events where the victim didn't have an empathetic witness. For many, treating unresolved trauma is the key to their recovery.

Is alcoholism inherited?

According to the DSM-5, alcoholism is believed to have a strong heritable component, with between 40–60% of the variance of risk being attributable to genetic factors. However, there is no cut-and-dry formula to explain alcoholism. It is a multifaceted and complex disease, so while someone may inherit a predisposition to the disorder, genes do not fully determine a person's outcome. 

The way genes are affected by environmental factors plays an important role in AUD. For example, being around parental figures who abuse alcohol, being exposed to peers who are heavy alcohol users, and using alcohol for the first time at an early age, can all influence the development of AUD.

Determining whether you have a drinking problem

whilst it is difficult to offer a solid framework in helping you to self-diagnose alcoholism, we are nevertheless able to offer guidance in helping you come to this conclusion.

Below, we list a number of signs that could mean you are experiencing alcoholism:

  • you frequently blackout after drinking sessions
  • you drink large amounts of alcohol and continue drinking when everybody else has stopped
  • you drink at times when it may be socially or professionally disapproved upon
  • you drink alcohol to treat a negative psychological state such as depression or anxiety
  • your tolerance for alcohol has dramatically increased

The stages of developing alcoholism

In most situations, those affected by alcohol began to drink moderately and responsibly. However, moderate drinking develops into binge drinking. Often, this is triggered by living a stressful lifestyle or experiencing a traumatic event. During the early stages of alcohol abuse, it's likely you are able to control your drinking or even stop completely.

Binge drinking may develop into alcohol abuse for many different reasons. Alcohol abuse arises when you begin to drink more than 14 units of alcohol over many consecutive days. You may notice the reasons why you drink alcohol begin to change. Whilst before you drank for social reasons, you begin to find yourself drinking merely because it improves your mood. Drinking to feel better is a definite sign that you are beginning to abuse alcohol.

If left unchecked, there is a good chance that alcohol abuse could develop into a physical dependency on alcohol. Here, you will drink alcohol to avoid the withdrawal symptoms that arise when your blood alcohol levels begin to drop.

These symptoms typically include tremors, nausea, sweating, and a heightened heartbeat. Alcohol dependency is characterized by an increased tolerance to alcohol. You will require ever-greater volumes of alcohol in order to attain the desired effects.

When an alcohol dependency arises, you will drink alcohol, not for pleasure. Instead, your cravings for alcohol and the consequential drinking will negatively interfere with each and every aspect of your life.

You will likely lose friends, family members, and jobs as a result of your drinking. The only way you can repair this damage is to attend an alcohol rehab clinic where you will receive the necessary treatment that's needed to make a full recovery.

When you begin to recognize the symptoms of alcoholism, it's likely your initial reaction will be to deny the existence of the problem. Denial is a defense mechanism and one that often arises from the misconception that alcohol addiction is caused by a moral failing. Denial is insidious because it prevents you from seeking out a solution to your alcohol addiction.

Health complications from alcohol abuse

Drinking too much – on a single occasion or long-term – can take a serious toll on your health. Some effects of alcohol may have a minor effect on your health, while others can be severe or life-threatening.

Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects. For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination. That's why drinking and driving are extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.

Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:

  • Slow reaction time
  • Poor reflexes
  • Reduce brain activity
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restlessness

Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface. Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Here are some of the long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:

  • Brain defects
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome ( a neurobiological disease)
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Vision damage
  • Bone loss

In 2013, 45.8 percent of liver disease deaths among Americans ages 12 and older involved alcohol.

Alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, liver, and breast.

Excessive drinking negatively impacts heart health. Heart disease is currently one of the leading causes of death for alcoholics.

Key risk factors for developing alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disorder. In fact, it may take many years for the full effects of alcoholism to emerge. Since alcoholism develops slowly over many years, it's thus not difficult to appreciate why so many people affected by alcoholism experience denial.

It's important to recognize the risk factors associated with alcoholism so you are better able to recognise them before it is too late.

The most common risk factors that increase your chances of developing alcoholism include:

  • Genetics: it's often said that alcoholism 'runs in the family.' it's believed that children of alcohol-dependent parents are four times more likely to develop alcoholism themselves. Scientists have discovered a variety of genes that increase the risks of developing alcoholism. This means there isn't a single genetic factor to blame when it comes to your predisposition to developing alcoholism.
  • Environmental factors: it's believed that genetic factors will not increase the odds of developing alcoholism if you are not exposed to an environment where this illness is allowed to be cultivated. If your parents abuse alcohol, it's likely you will mimic their behavior in later life. Environmental factors promoting alcoholism include peer pressure from colleagues, friends or your partner.
  • Lifestyle and stress: if you experience prolonged tertekan or a traumatic event, you are much more likely to abuse alcohol. This is because you may discover that alcohol provides a temporary release from stress. However, when the effects of alcohol wear off, the rebound symptoms of stress will intensify, meaning you need to drink more alcohol for the yet more temporary reprieve
  • psychological illnesses: it's no secret that there's a causal link between alcohol addiction and mental health. Common mental health issues thought to be a risk factor when it comes to alcoholism include post-traumatic tertekan disorder, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. These conditions are undoubtedly aggravated by alcohol abuse.

Female alcohol addiction

For many years, alcoholism was believed to be an illness that only inflicted men. Whilst it is true that more men are affected by alcoholism than women, it's also true that a significant number of women are developing alcoholism in the twenty-first century. Some studies have even gone as far as saying that alcoholism is equally prevalent in women as it is for men.

The elderly and alcohol addiction

When you begin to age, your ability to process alcohol diminishes. This means the same amount of alcohol will have greater effects on a person who is sixty-five compared to a person who is twenty-five. The royal college of psychiatrists recommends that the government's guidelines of non-more than fourteen units of alcohol per week should be lowered for the elderly.

The vast majority of elderly people who experience alcoholism developed this illness in later life. The elderly are considered vulnerable and 'at risk' when it comes to developing alcoholism. Many of these people begin to drink due to the social isolation that's all too common in old age.

Other factors contributing to the development of alcoholism amongst our elderly citizens include boredom, poor health, and bereavement. Some elderly people may consume alcohol as a way of managing pain caused by an age-related illness or injury.

Mental disorders and alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease of the mind because it alters the chemical makeup of the brain. These chemical changes contribute to an alteration in behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. It's thus not surprising to learn that alcoholism is linked to a range of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Drinking alcohol often provides temporary relief from these mental health problems. This is often known as 'self-medicating' with alcohol.

Alcoholism is also linked to a number of more serious mental health issues including psychosis and self-harm. It's also estimated that more than 70% of suicides were committed whilst under the influence of alcohol. Sufferers are believed to be put themselves at a heightened risk of suicide if they undergo a detox without medical supervision.

Sadly, some choose to take their own life rather than having to face the pain of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is an utterly tragic affair because medications designed to significantly reduce these symptoms are cheaply available.

Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can occur when you ingest too much alcohol too quickly (as with rapid binge drinking), resulting in very high blood alcohol levels that impair brain control of vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death. Individuals who ingest lethal amounts of alcohol often cease breathing. Even those who survive can suffer irreversible brain damage from a sustained lack of oxygen delivery. People who have an AUD are at an increased risk of alcohol poisoning.

The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:

  • Mental confusion.
  • Stupor.
  • Coma.
  • Being unable to wake the person.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Slow (fewer than 8 breaths per minute) or irregular (10 seconds or more between each breath) breathing.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Bluish skin color.
  • Paleness.

Just because someone may appear to be “sleeping it off,” they can still be in danger of serious harm from alcohol poisoning. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone may be in danger of an alcohol overdose.

Treatment for alcoholism

Choosing to seek help for alcohol addiction is one of the biggest decisions you will face. There are different forms of treatment available based on the frequency and severity of alcohol abuse. Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab. It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.

Although every individual will have their own recovery plan that's tailored to their specific needs, treatment generally follows a structure.

Alcohol treatment is broken into three sections, consisting of:


the first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of withdrawal.


the recovery process doesn't end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counseling, and other recovery resources. These will make sure you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for months and years to come.


there are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to determine which form of recovery will best fit your needs.


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