Alcoholism

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Alcoholism refers to addiction to alcoholic beverages. The medical term used to refer to alcoholism is alcohol dependence. A person can be diagnosed with alcohol dependence if at least three of these criteria occur during the same 12-month span: (a) tolerance (i.e., more alcohol is needed to produce the same effect); (b) alcohol withdrawal; (c) alcohol is used in larger amounts or over longer periods than intended (i.e., loss of control); (d) chronic desire or unsuccessful attempts to reduce drinking; (e) a great deal of time is spent obtaining or using alcohol; (f) other activities are reduced in order to use or recover from using alcohol; (g) drinking continues despite persistent problems that it either causes or makes worse[1].

Contents

Causes

  • ... one note is found to be common to all alcoholics - emotional immaturity. Closely related to this is an observation that an unusually large number of alcoholics start out in life as an only child, as a younger child, as the only boy in a family of girls or the only girl in a family of boys. Many have records of childhood precocity and were what are known as spoiled children. [1]

Health and other effects

People with alcoholism have difficulty controlling their drinking, and thus tend to continue to drink despite problems that it causes. For example, being intoxicated or hung over can cause poor performance at school or work, leading to poor grades or loss of employment. Intoxication also impairs judgment, which may lead to legal problems when people engage in behaviors that they would think better of when sober (e.g., driving under the influence). Alcoholism can also be damaging to the family, leading to marital discord or divorce, and can contribute to domestic violence.

Alcohol intoxication is commonly associated with crime; in cases where husbands murder their wives, about 66% of the cases involved drinking.[2]

Chronic, heavy drinking also causes a number of health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, cancer, pancreatitis, sexual dysfunction, and alcohol-induced dementia.

Alcohol withdrawal

As noted above, alcohol withdrawal is a primary feature of alcoholism. Withdrawal can occur when a person who is normally a heavy drinker tries to quit or is unable to obtain alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can lead directly to death. Heavy drinking reduces the brain's supply of GABA. Both alcohol and GABA limit the firing of synapses in the brain. When neither is present in sufficient amounts, uncontrolled firing of synapses may occur, causing delirium tremens ("the DTs"). Symptoms of delirium tremens include hallucinations, convulsions, seizures, and heart failure. Delirium tremens can be controlled fairly easily with medical supervision, often with the use of benzodiazepines.

Treatment

A number of methods to solve alcoholism are available for alcoholism, including faith in God, detoxification, psychotherapy, self-help groups, and medications.

Detoxification is an abrupt cessation of drinking, often accompanied by medications such as benzodiazepines to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification helps a person to cope with the physiological effects of chronic heavy drinking, but does not help with issues such as urges to drink or underlying reasons for alcohol dependence. Consequently, additional treatment is usually required for a successful outcome.

Psychotherapy for alcohol dependence can occur in individual or group format. This treatment helps an individual to be aware of underlying issues that may have led or contributed to alcoholism (e.g., depression). Psychotherapy also provides an individual with skills to help prevent relapse, such as avoiding situations in which not drinking would be difficult. As noted earlier, studies indicate that consumers of secular counseling psychology for alcoholism receive hardly any benefit at all.[3][4] For more information please see: Ineffectivness of counseling psychology

Self-help groups are commonly used by those suffering from alcoholism. The best known is Alcoholics Anonymous, in which members acknowledge their problems with alcohol and provide support for other members.

Medications are often used to discourage alcohol use. Antabuse (disulfiram) interrupts the metabolization of alcohol, increasing the amount of acetaldehyde in the body and leading to substantial hangover symptoms shortly after drinking and discouraging those who have taken the medication from drinking. Naltrexone is a medication that binds to opioid receptors in the brain, decreasing alcohol cravings and promoting abstinence.

See also

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. APA, Washington, D.C.
  2. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/spousfac.pr
  3. http://www.spring.org.uk/2005/07/psychological-treatments-for-alcoholism.php
  4. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/5/75/abstract
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