Alcoholism Primer

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
A PRIMER
Compiled by Pamela Brewer

Alcoholism is a disease. The person who struggles with the disease truly does struggle. It is important to remember that someone who is drinking in excess is not someone who is happy, rather, someone who is in pain – emotional pain – and excess alcohol is used as a way to medicate the pain. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence defines alcoholism in this way: "Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychological, 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 the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortion in thinking, most notably denial."


WHO IS AFFECTED?


According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 14 million Americans (1 in every 13 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. The costs to society in terms of lost productivity, health care costs, traffic accidents, and personal tragedies are staggering.


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS/SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOLISM?


Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include changes in sleep, decrease ability to engage in healthy daily living skills, decrease in productivity, daily plans are canceled or rescheduled (including work attendance) because of hangovers, changes in sexual functioning, increased driving offenses, changes in frustration tolerance, growing sense of “looking forward” to the next drink and agitation when alcohol is not available.


IS ALCOHOLISM CAUSED BY LACK OF WILL POWER?


Most experts agree that there are psychological, environmental, and biological/hereditary components to the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholism does not occur in a vacuum – there are always underlying causes that contribute to an overuse/abuse of alcohol which may include, but are not limited to, family history, chronic illness, trauma, depression, anxiety, etc.


IS EVERYONE WHO DRINKS AN ALCOHOLIC?


Every one who takes a drink is not alcoholic. Everyone who has a drink every day is not an alcoholic. The determining factors are the way the drinking is used and the extent of the drinking behavior.



CAN SOMEONE WHO ONLY DRINKS BEER BE CONSIDERED AN ALCOHOLIC?


Beer and wine are alcoholic beverages.


CHILDREN/TEENS


Young children may be approached encouraged, “required” to drink. Do not assume because your child is very young, that he/she is also sober. Here are some of the signs and behaviors that may suggest your child is using: changes in attitudes, changes in daily , changes in choice of friends, changes in school performance, changes in physical appearance.


OLDER ADULTS


Depression is not a natural effect of aging – nor is drinking in excess. Many seniors who drink in excess are not challenged by others who take the attitude that “at their age, they can’t change”. Not only is this not true, but at “their age” excess drinking can very quickly create/exacerbate significant health damage.
“The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, recommends that people over age 65 who choose to drink have no more than one drink a day. Drinking at this level usually is not associated with health risks.”


WHAT SHOULD BE DONE IF ALCOHOLISM IS SUSPECTED?


DO NOT BE SILENT. SILENCE IS THE ENEMY
TALK ABOUT IT.
LEARN ABOUT IT
SUGGEST/ACCEPT HELP.

HELP IS AVAILABLE

Here are some places to start:
www.alcoholics-anonymous.org
www.al-anon.org
www.niaaa.nih.gov
The Employee Assistance program provided by your employer.

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