What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined as the inability to regulate one's drinking as a result of a physical and emotional reliance on alcohol. Alcoholism is a pattern of alcohol abuse that often leaves its victims in bad shape. Today, the condition is known as alcohol abuse disorder and alcohol dependency. Alcoholism typically takes the shape of patterns and habits pertaining to drinking. Some common patterns include issues controlling drinking, being focused on alcohol more than friends and family, and using alcohol when it causes problems. Moreover, alcoholism can be serious and people can even suffer from withdrawal when it's not consumed. 

What are the Signs of Alcoholism? 

The signs of alcoholism vary based on each person but there are a few things you can look out for. 

Signs of alcoholism are listed below.

  • Aggression

  • Violence

  • Mood swings

  • Isolation

  • A strong desire to drink

  • Lack of restraint

  • Destructive behavior 

  • Needing more drinks to feel the effects 

  • Symptoms of withdrawal when not drinking 

Unfortunately, alcoholism is challenging to diagnose based on one of these factors alone, so you should always consult with a professional if you or a loved one is experiencing many of these signs of alcoholism.

What are the Reasons for Alcoholism? 

The reasons for alcoholism are still a mystery because it's hard to pinpoint when drinking changes from a habit to a dependence. Still, some common factors lead to alcoholism over time. These reasons of alcoholism also vary but alcoholism tends to follow a pattern.

It starts when alcohol changes brain chemistry to create a more pleasurable response to drinking. For example, becoming intoxicated will begin to feel better, which leads to an individual consuming alcohol more often. Then, the pleasure from drinking fades away. This causes a person to drink in order to maintain basic happiness. At this stage, if a person stops drinking it will lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

While alcoholism follows a similar progression in most people, some risk factors to develop alcohol use disorder are listed below.

  • Stress

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety 

  • Depression 

  • Relationship problems

  • Job loss 

  • Mourning a loved one

  • Drinking too frequently 

  • Mixing alcohol and other substances 

The issue with alcoholism is that each person will have different risk factors and reasons for becoming an alcoholic.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary or Genetic? 

There has been a debate about genetics playing a role in alcoholism but the answers are becoming more clear. According to research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, genetic factors account for about half of alcohol use disorder cases.

Researchers have also concluded that some genes play a larger role than others. For example, the gene responsible for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) movement in neuron synapses seems to be one of the most important genes for predicting alcoholism.

The theory is that this gene can increase feelings of pleasure when consuming alcohol, while simultaneously reducing the impact of nausea or vomiting. More research is needed to confirm this theory but it's clear that genetics do play a role in alcoholism cases.

What are the Stages of Alcoholism? 

Alcoholism has four common stages that most people experience. It's a progression that gets worse as more alcohol is consumed. Depending on the stage a person is in, treatment options and symptoms of withdrawal will vary.

The four stages of alcoholism are pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic, and late alcoholic. When alcoholism is diagnosed early the road to recovery is easier.

  • The Pre-alcoholic stage is hard to notice because it's similar to casual drinking. The main difference here is that people will begin to develop an alcohol tolerance –more drinks are required to reach the desired effect.

  • The early alcoholic stage is when issues become more clear. The individual will commonly experience a blackout and start to hide the issue. For example, common drinks like sparkling water or coffee can be spiked and individuals will often drink alone.

  • The middle alcoholic stage is when the signs are obvious to people around them. Friends and family might start to notice a dependence on alcohol and people will often miss events. People in this stage can also suffer from mood swings, irritability, weight gain, swelling, and more.

  • The last stage, late alcoholism, is when the prognosis becomes poor. Individuals at this stage will require alcohol to have fun and it can become an all-day issue. Furthermore, health problems from frequent alcohol consumption will start to surface. People may experience chronic inflammation, liver disease, heart disease, and withdrawal if drinking ceases.

The important thing to note about each stage is that it's never too late to seek help.

What are the Physical Harms of Alcoholism? 

Alcoholism will physically harm the body and lead to significant health problems like liver damage, fatigue, and even dehydration. People that frequently drink can also end up in hospitals for liver failure, stomach ulcers, and other advanced medical conditions.

That said, some of the most common physical harms from alcoholism include these.

  • Brain shrinkage

  • Fatigue 

  • Damage to the heart

  • Cancers

  • Ulcers 

  • Infertility 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Erectile dysfunction 

  • Numbness

  • Muscle cramping 

  • Loss in bone mass

  • Lack of proper nutrition 

While the short-term effects of alcohol use fade after the body processes the substance, the long-term health effects can lead to chronic conditions.

What are the Psychological Harms of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism also comes with numerous psychological problems like confusion, memory loss, and mood swings. People can also develop chronic conditions that take a long time to manage or reduce. Unfortunately, the psychological issues associated with alcoholism can be more dangerous than the physical ones.

Some of the most common psychological harms of alcoholism include these.

  • Memory loss (blacking out)

  • Alcohol dependency 

  • Withdrawal 

  • Mood swings

  • Depression 

  • Anxiety 

  • Mental health disorders 

Alcoholism affects each person differently, so these psychological harms may vary.

What are the Treatments of Alcoholism?

Treating alcoholism typically occurs in stages and depends on how severe the symptoms are. We're going to take you through the three common treatment modalities.

Treatment methods of alcoholism are listed below.

  1. Detoxification

  2. Rehabilitation

  3. Maintenance

1. Detoxification 

First and foremost, people suffering from alcohol abuse disorder need to enter a detoxification phase. This phase is medically monitored by a licensed professional and medication is administered depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms. In fact, alcohol withdrawal can be more dangerous than opioid withdrawal.

The length of the detoxification process varies based on how long a person has been drinking. It can take between 3 days and up to 2 weeks for serious cases. During this process, withdrawal can lead to mood swings, fatigue, weight loss, and other health complications.

2. Rehabilitation 

Once the detoxification phase is complete people typically enter into a rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation in alcoholism varies and there are many options for people to choose from. For example, people can choose to enter sober living programs or recover with weekly meetings from an outpatient provider. The length of rehabilitation also depends on how long a person has been impacted by alcoholism.

Unfortunately, it's hard to give an accurate length of time for rehabilitation. For some people, it can take months but for others, it can take many years.

3. Maintenance 

The final phase of treatment is maintenance. This phase consists of aftercare treatment that's typically conducted by organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These groups hold weekly meetings and assign each member a sponsor to keep urges to a minimum. Many recovering Alcoholics will be in the maintenance phase for the rest of their lives because the chance of relapse is great.

Each phase of recovery can vary but these are traditional steps an individual must follow to remain alcohol-free after suffering from alcohol abuse disorder.

What is an Alcoholism Treatment Program? 

Alcoholism treatment programs typically include a combination of treatment modalities like therapy and medication. The type of treatment program often depends on the severity of the condition and how long a person has been drinking.

One of the most common treatment modalities is behavioral therapy, which is an outpatient treatment modality. Behavioral therapy can include treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which gives patients a mental toolbox to combat the urge to drink. Therapy can also help patients with co-occurring disorders discover the root cause of addiction. For example, if someone is suffering from mental health issues that lead to drinking.

Another treatment modality is medication-assisted detox (MAT). This modality is often used when patients are suffering from severe symptoms of withdrawal. During the treatment process patients are monitored to make sure they're safe and the length of detox can take a few weeks or even months.

The last common treatment method to consider is a support group. These are groups that meet each week, like AA and help people recover through sharing stories and being open with one another.

When suffering from alcoholism people can go through a combination of these modalities.

What are the Medications for Alcoholism? 

People suffering from alcoholism may need medications to recover. These medications can help with withdrawal, reduce a victim's desire to drink, and keep an individual sedated. Some alternative medications can also be used for hydration through the use of vitamins.

While the prescription will vary based on individual needs, the most common medications for alcoholism include these.

  • Sedatives: for sleep 

  • Vitamins: for hydration 

  • Acamprosate: reduces the desire to drink 

  • Disulfiram: causes an unpleasant response to alcohol consumption 

While these are the most common medications for alcoholism, it's important to consult with a medical health professional before taking any medications.

What are the Types of Alcoholics? 

Alcoholism affects everyone differently, so there are many types of alcoholics. Everyone will have unique behavior but there are some common signs and groupings for each type of behavior.

We have these alcoholics types below.

  • Young adult subtype

  • Functional subtype

  • Intermediate family subtype

  • Young antisocial subtype

  • Severe subtype (chronic)

The young adult subtype is one of the most common groups of alcoholics and represents more than 30% of all cases. The young adult subtype begins drinking at around 18 and becomes dependent on alcohol in their mid-20s.

The functional subtype is a unique group of Alcoholics that maintain relationships, jobs, and other obligations. This group is typically middle-aged and it's harder to spot this subtype because they're functioning members of society. That said, this group will often suffer from depression but not many other mental health issues.

The immediate family subtype is a group that becomes an alcoholic because of family influence. For example, someone can have a parent or relative that drinks often and shares drinks. This usually begins at an early age but alcohol dependence tends to occur later in life. Unfortunately, this group has a high risk of not seeking treatment because it might be normalized within the family.

The young antisocial group suffers from many issues. First and foremost, drinking tends to begin at a much younger age. Moreover, the chemical changes that alcohol makes to the brain can result in many co-occurring disorders. This subtype also tends to have a low level of education, struggles to enter the workforce, and might develop a dependence on other substances.

The chronic severe group also begins drinking at a young age and is often influenced by family. This normalizes the drinking and can create dependence in adulthood. The chronic severe group also suffers from a high rate of co-occurring disorders and dependence on other substances.

While these are the types of alcoholics, people can be a mix of more than one.

What are the Statistics about Alcoholism? 

Alcoholism has alarming statistics that lead to negative outcomes like death, overdose, and hospitalization. Furthermore, the statistics have gotten worse in 2021 due to the impact of the global lockdowns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

To provide context, 95,000 people die from alcohol use every year, 7% of all people have alcohol use disorder, and more than half the population has increased their alcohol use as a result of lockdowns. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Statistics about alcoholism address some of the patterns associated with alcoholism.

Here are some of the most common statistics that highlight how dangerous alcoholism is:

  • Over 250 Americans die each day from alcohol use 

  • 80% of alcohol deaths occur in people over 35 years of age

  • Men are 3 times more likely to die from alcohol consumption than women

  • 13.5% of deaths among 20-40-year-olds are caused by alcohol usage 

  • In 2019, 25.8% of people over 18 admitted to binge drinking 

  • In 2019, more than 14.5 million people were suffering from alcohol use disorder in the U.S.

While these are a handful of sobering statistics related to alcoholism, the list goes on.

What Country Has the Highest Rate of Alcoholism?

The country with the highest rate of alcoholism based on how much alcohol is consumed per liter is Belarus. According to USA Today, people in Belarus consume 17.5 liters of alcohol and 26% of people have admitted to binge drinking.

One of the reasons the nation could suffer from this level of consumption is that the nation is on the border of Russia and Ukraine; two nations that have had a lot of conflict in recent years. When stress is added to a population the result is often drinking.

What is Dipsomania? 

Dipsomania is a word for alcoholism that refers to bouts of intense cravings. While the term is similar to alcoholism, the short-term cravings can be more intense and noticeable to friends and family. Moreover, it was one of the first terms used to describe the impact of alcoholism on a person's mind.

The word was introduced in 1819 by Doctor C. Von Brühl-Cramer. He published a book about it and it became one of the first and most well-known books about alcoholism. In the book, Doctor Brühl-Cramer noted that it was a physical disease. His primary method of treatment for the condition was a therapy that was based on known chemistry at the time. While it's not similar to what we have in place today, he laid the foundation for the future of alcohol treatment.

Doctor C. Von Brühl-Cramer also made connections to why the condition occurred. He was able to relate the causes to mental health issues and show how alcohol could harm a person's body. 

What is the History of Alcoholism? 

The history of alcoholism is a long one and it dates back to the formation of agriculture. While addictive substances have been around for far longer, they couldn't become a problem until people began to settle down in groups. Furthermore, alcohol needs to be fermented, which takes time and resources. Therefore, stability was needed for alcohol to be mass-produced and available for everyone.

About the history of alcoholism, some examples of alcohol being used in ancient cultures are also available. For example, one study shows the drinking patterns of ancient Romans. The study delves into when alcohol usage increased and how it was based on what the empire was going through at the time.

While alcoholism was well-known during this period, it became more serious as modern society began to develop. Many researchers claim that addictions like alcoholism are a response to the stresses that present themselves in the modern world.

Moving closer to modern times, the 20th century led to learning and a more in-depth understanding of alcoholism. One study follows the treatment of alcohol throughout this time and tells the story of events like prohibition that changed the United States. There have also been attempts by governments to perform eugenics on people believed to be alcoholics. For example, the German government attempted to make Alcoholics Infertile to stop the spread of the illness.

Luckily, treatment methods have evolved and we now have a much better understanding of alcoholism and how to treat it.

How Alcoholism Affects Society 

Alcoholism has many negative effects on families, society, and even individuals. While studies are limited on the impact of long-term alcohol consumption, two studies have been conducted over the last five decades. These studies have monitored drinking behaviors and how they impacted people and society.

According to Alcohol Health and Research World, factors such as co-occurring disorders were found in people who began drinking at a young age. People were more likely to develop mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, it was clear that people who continued to drink experienced conditions that got worse with time.

Alcoholism can also impact families. The behavior of alcoholics can cause tension, lead to marriage problems, cause children to grow up with only one parent, and more. As alcoholism progresses the impact on a family continues to get worse. For example, early-stage alcoholism doesn't have as much of an impact on families as something like late-stage alcoholism.

Another factor to consider is how alcoholism impacts society. When thousands of people suffer from alcohol dependence it can put a strain on the healthcare system and labor market. People can end up making less money or end up on social systems like welfare. Moreover, the high cost of treating conditions like liver failure can also result in a strain on that system.

What Diseases is Alcoholism Associated With? 

Alcoholism is associated with numerous diseases like liver failure, heart disease, and even mental health conditions. This makes it one of the most dangerous addictions because it can result in hospitalization and early death.

Below we have some of the most common diseases that are impacted by alcoholism:

  • Liver damage: Frequently drinking can cause the liver to stop functioning properly. This can result in cancer, liver damage, and liver failure. Late-stage alcoholics might also require a liver transplant.

  • Mental health disorders: Co-occurring disorders occur when an individual consumes alcohol and develops a related condition like. 

  • Heart disease: Drinking alcohol can cause heart issues that can result in heart failure, heart attacks, and even strokes.

  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, and breast: Alcohol is a toxic substance that can cause cellular damage. This results in mutations and cancer. 

  • Fatty liver: a buildup of fat cells within the liver.

  • Alcoholic hepatitis: This is acute inflammation in the liver.

These are a handful of the diseases caused by alcoholism. That said, the World Health Organization notes that over 200 conditions can occur from frequent alcohol use.

What is an Alcoholism Test?

The alcohol test measures your alcohol consumption rate with questions such as your gender, how much you drink per week and per day, and how often you consume alcohol. At the end of the questions, it informs you whether you are addicted to alcohol or not. The World Health Organization published AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) in 1989 to analyze how much alcohol you use, and to support individuals to reduce or cease alcohol consumption.

What are the Movies about Alcoholism?

The problems caused by the alcohol problem are also reflected in the movies. These movies are listed below.

  • Leaving Las Vegas: It is a story of Ben Sanderson who lost everything because of alcoholism and going to Las Vegas to drink himself to death.

  •  Days of Wine and Roses: Joe Clay is an alcoholic and married to secretary Kirsten Arnesen and addicted to booze.

  • When a Man Loves a Woman: The movie introduces alcoholism as a family disease to the audience.

  • The Last Weekend: The movie is a story of a desperate writer Don Birnam who is an alcoholic and his four-day adventure in a drinking bout.

  • Smashed: Kate Hannah is an alcoholic elementary school teacher and marries an alcoholic man. After a whole night of drinking, she vomits in front of her kids and decides to quit alcohol.

What are the Songs about Alcoholism?

Music touches every aspect of life and affects us. Songs composed on topics such as alcohol addiction and recovering are listed below.

  • Staind\It’s Been a While: It is about the problems such as depression that come along with alcohol addiction.

  • Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss\ Whiskey Lullaby: It is about people escaping their problems by drinking.

  • Blue October\Hate Me: It talks about the pain of losing his lover because of alcohol.

  • James Arthur\Recovery: He talks about recovery, explaining how he continues his life and writing his songs.

  • Travis\Blue Flashing Light: It is about how an alcohol-addicted father affects and damages his daughter.

What are the Books about Alcoholism?

The books that will be your guide while quitting alcoholism are listed below.

  • This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace: In her book, which consists of scientific knowledge,  includes practices on alcoholism, Grace supports readers in dreaming of a world without alcohol.

  • Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola: Hepole herself has a history of alcoholism that she drinks wine from her parents' glasses secretly. And when she is an adult, her drinking turns into blackouts. In her book, she tells her story with self-deprecating humor.

  • Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa F. Smith: In her book, Smith talks about her story with alcoholism.  Tell her experiences as a young adult with anxiety, her stress from the workload, and her recovery process. She faces all the harm alcohol gives her in the detox facility and changes her life.

  • We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life by Laura Mckowen: Mckowen, who defines people who drink casually as lucky during the process of trying to quit drinking, realizes that when she quits drinking, she is the lucky one because she can experience her feelings honestly and as she wants.

What are the Clinical and Experimental Researches about Alcoholism?

According to a study in the UK with more than 25,000 people, it is found that no matter how much you drink, alcohol causes damage to the brain. The study suggests that the more alcohol consumed, the more the brain loses its volume. 

According to the senior clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, Anya Topiwala, there are no specific areas, but the whole brain is affected by alcohol. And a study shared by the World Health Organization shows that cancer and drinking are associated. Alcohol causes several forms of cancers, including breast, oral.

What are the Organizations for Alcoholism?

The individuals who are trying to stop drinking need additional support to overcome the process easily. Organizations for alcoholism can help individuals in their recovery process. These organizations are listed below.

  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): They offer healthcare professionals and help you to find appropriate treatment.

  • National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA): They provide training and education for teachers, doctor to support children with alcohol-addicted parents.  

  • National Institute on Alcohol  Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): They publish pamphlets and publications to help addicts overcome alcoholism.

  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD): They create campaigns and meet the parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drunk driving.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): They bring together the addictions with members to talk about the reasons, problems to tend them to drinking. 

What is the Difference Between Alcoholism and Binge Drinking?

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is the consumption of enough alcohol in a short time to raise the drinker’s blood alcohol level rapidly (BAC). Binge drinking often results in blacking out, which occurs when someone experiences a loss of the ability to create short-term memories while under the effects of alcohol. T Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines alcoholism as the inability to control drinking and cannot stop drinking even though you experience negative consequences. 

The other difference between them is the treatment method. While binge drinkers can quit drinking without professional support, alcoholism requires a treatment process that includes detox, rehab.

How Common is Alcoholism?

Among people 18 years and older, 86.5 percent drink alcohol at some point in their life. 22.2 percent of them engage in binge drinking, and about 6.3 percent engage in heavy alcohol consumption. According to the research in the USA, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older have AUD. Of these only 7.2 percent receive any treatment. And 47 percent of people die because of alcohol-related problems.

What Profession has the Most Alcoholics?

Many people have reasons to start drinking alcohol. Factors such as your job and the stress and pressure you experience in the work environment increase the tendency to drink. The professions that have the most alcoholics are listed below.

  • Restaurant and Hospitality Workers: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 16.9 percent of the workers who work in food service or hospitality have alcohol disorders.

  • Doctors and Health Care Professionals: With their responsibilities to the lives of patients, doctors and healthcare professionals have high-stress jobs. Approximately, 10-14 percent of healthcare professionals have alcohol addictions.

  • Lawyers and Legal Professionals: There are more than 13,000 lawyers who use excessive alcohol to deal with problems due to their long hours of work and excessive responsibilities.

  • Police Officers: 20% to 30%of the police officers, who often work in dangerous environments, sometimes have to stop in places where their own lives are at risk, and with long working hours, consume alcohol excessively.

If Your Loved One Suffers From Alcoholism What Should You Do?

Alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe. After you realize there is a problem, talk to them with supportive and positive words. You have to predetermine your sentences and make your intervention at the right time. You should make them feel like you will help them and that you will support them. If they do not agree to get treatment, you can get help from people you think can persuade them. 

You should be able to empathize with them, you should not drink alcohol with them or go to places with alcohol during the treatment process. You can help them find hobbies that they can use to distract themselves. That said, you can spend more time talking, and you can reassure them that you can deal with problems together.