What Is Alcoholism?

The Definition of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is the inability to manage drinking habits to the point where it becomes alcohol abuse. Alcohol use disorder occurs under three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Each group has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects. If left untreated, the body eventually becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol.

Those with alcohol use disorder will continue to drink even when drinking causes negative consequences, such as losing a job or destroying relationships with people they love.

There are many treatment options available to achieve long- term sobriety and overcome alcohol addiction.

What Causes Alcoholism?

Alcoholism develops when over-drinking changes the chemical balance in the brain. An individual continually wants to feel pleasurable feelings and euphoria, even if it causes harm. Over time, these alcohol-related feelings subside, and a person will continue to engage in alcohol consumption to prevent withdrawal symptoms, which can become quite unpleasant and dangerous.

What are the risk factors?

Certain risk factors may increase the risk of developing alcoholism.

  • Unable to control alcohol consumption
  • More than 15 drinks per week (male)
  • More than 12 drinks per week (female)
  • Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
  • Behaving differently after drinking
  • Parent with an alcohol use disorder
  • Other mental health concern such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder in behaviors that occur as a result of alcohol addiction. People with alcohol use disorder engage in the following acts:

  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking to feel the effects of alcohol (high tolerance)
  • Becoming violent or angry when asked about drinking habits
  • Not eating/poor eating
  • Neglect hygiene
  • Missing work/school due to drinking
  • Continuing to drink even when legal, social or economic problems develop
  • Neglecting social, occupational or recreational activities due to alcohol use

Physical symptoms:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking include shaking, nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors morning after drinking
  • Lapses in memory morning after drinking
  • Cirrhosis or dehydration type symptoms (alcohol ketoacidosis)

How is Alcoholism Treated?

Treatment methods for alcohol use disorder vary. However, the outcome is to achieve long-term sobriety and abstinence from drinking. During this process, several stages of treatment can occur:

  • Detoxification or withdrawal of alcohol from the body
  • Rehabilitation to address emotional problems that cause drinking
  • Support groups
  • Medical treatment for health problems associated with an alcohol use disorder
  • Medications to help control addiction

What is the outlook of alcohol use disorder?

Recovering from alcohol abuse can be difficult. The outlook will depend on the individual’s ability to stop drinking. Long-term sobriety happens with a secure support system and professional assistance. The prospect will also depend on the health of the individual as alcohol use disorder can severely damage the liver and cause other health complications:

  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Damage to brain cells
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Nerve damage
  • Changes in mental status (Wernicke-korsakoff syndrome – a brain disease that causes symptoms of confusion, vision changes and memory loss)

Take the first steps to recovery by contacting us today.