Is alcoholism a disease?

Some say yes. Some say no. But alcoholism definitely affects your health of body and mind. More on alcoholism as a disease here.

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It depends on who you ask.

To conventional and established medical authorities, alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychological, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Alcoholism as symptom of mental illness fits this model.  However, other sources think that it’s more useful to view problem drinking as the result of the interaction between a person’s personality and the social context in which s/he has learned how to drink.

But what is clear: alcoholism is characterized by a mental and/or physical addiction to alcohol. Family therapy for alcoholism, cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and other psychological treatments can help.  But Who is most prone to alcoholic drinking? And what are the clinical indications of alcoholism? Is abstinence or harm reduction more important in treating alcohol problems? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions about alcoholism as a disease at the end.

What is alcoholism?

Alcohol affects the mind by altering the receptors which affect our common sense, judgment, and choices me make every day. Alcoholism is a pathological condition which affects the mental and physical condition of the alcoholic. If an alcoholic continues an alcoholic drinking pattern, they will eventually die from abusing alcohol.

An alcoholic drink equals a shot of hard liquor, a beer or a mixed drink. This would not exclude a conveniently sized 40 oz. of malt liquor. When someone abuses alcohol they have more than three drinks in one sitting and drink like this at least once or twice per week. Similarities alcoholics share include:

  • can’t stop drinking after one or two drinks.
  • continued to drink after having had a memory blackout
  • continued to drink even though it makes them feel depressed or anxious or adds to another health problem
  • continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with family or friends
  • drink much more than before to get the desired effects
  • drinking gets in the way of work or close relationships
  • drinking more, or longer, than intended
  • feel the need to have alcohol in their house at all times
  • found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interferes with taking care of your home or family, causes job troubles or school problems
  • found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, withdrawal symptoms appear, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure Or sensed things that were not there
  • give up or cut back on activities that are important or interesting in order to drink
  • more than once have been arrested, been held at a police station, or had other legal problems because of drinking
  • more than once have gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased chances of getting hurt (drunk driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex
  • spend a lot of time drinking or being sick or getting over other aftereffects
  • the usual number of drinks has much less effect than before
  • try more than once to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but cannot

Who can become an alcoholic?

Anyone that drinks for effect has a possibility of becoming an alcoholic. Alcoholism doesn’t differentiate between users. Believe it or not, there are plenty of politicians, judges, lawyers, doctors, and respected community members that keep their drinking in secret. In brief, alcoholism can occur for anyone, but usually someone has to be abusing alcohol on a pretty regular basis for problem drinking to turn to alcoholism.

Alcoholism and dual diagnosis

Doctors acknowledge that alcoholism is frequently a dual diagnosis condition. Dual diagnosis indicates medical conditions which affect more than one part of the body. Alcoholism can be a dual diagnosis disease, and attack the body physically contribute to disorders in an alcoholic’s mental state.

Physically, alcoholism can cause liver failure, kidney failure, and other life threatening bodily complications. One indicator of severe alcoholism is wet brain syndrome. Over time, alcohol will affect the brain so much it basically can’t function at all, severely impairing simple everyday tasks.

Alcoholism as a disease questions

While experts still don’t agree on the disease model of alcoholism, they can agree that alcoholism is a very serious condition if left untreated. If someone is able to stop drinking, they can experience remission and begin to positively contribute to their society.

Do you have opinions or experience(s) to add about alcoholism as a disease? Please leave us your comments below. We are happy to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Why alcoholism is not a disease
NIAAA: What are symptoms of an alcohol use disorder?
About the author
Daniel Van Helden is a full-time father of 7 year old son. He works full time in a customer service call center. Daniel Van Helden is an alcoholic that has been in recovery since 12/09/2009. His goal is to inform people of all walks of life about addiction, alcoholism, and recovery.
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