WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic illness and in many cases can be fatal when the consumption of alcoholic drinks is out of control. It interferes with physical, mental, social and/or family health in addition to work responsibilities.
TYPES OF DEPENDENCE
- Physical – A physical dependence becomes evident when alcohol consumption stops with very obvious symptoms such as tremors, sweating… even leading to death.
- Psychological – Once the physical dependence has been overcome the real work is managing to show an alcoholic how to deal with their emotions and difficult situations without turning to drink. This is the true psychological dependence: thinking that one is not capable of living without alcohol.
There is a well-defined cause of alcoholism, but there are risk factors that can play an important role in its development. It is in fact a bio psychosocial disease with various causes:
- Biological – It is more common in people with an alcoholic family member or a psychiatric disorder and the cause for this may be in genetic or biochemical anomalies.
- Psychological – Anxiety, conflict in personal relations, low self-esteem, shyness, amongst others.
- Social – An environment where alcohol is easily available. The chance for alcohol consumption and abuse in social situations, stressful lifestyles, etc.
- Incapacity to survive without drinking.
- Broken promises to control or abstain from drinking.
- Lack of personal hygiene and poor diet.
- Sleep disorders.
- Absence, mistakes and repeated delays at work.
- Anxiety or pressure in the chest in the mornings.
- Lying about the amount of alcohol consumed or hiding bottles.
- Loss of time and/or money planning drinking, drinking when hung over.
- Drinking alone or joining people who the only tie to is drinking.
- Being unable to control the consequences of alcohol consumption.
- Feelings of guilt the next day.
- Memory lapses.
- Becoming defensive when discussing the problem.
- Inability to have fun without drinking.
- Episodes of personality change under the influence of alcohol.
The consequences of alcoholism can affect different areas of life of the addict:
- Premature ageing.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Immunological changes.
- Chronic gastritis, stomach and intestinal ulcers.
- Changes in general liver function and eventually cirrhosis.
- High blood pressure.
- Increased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
- In men: a decrease in testosterone, loss of facial hair and an increase in the size of mammary glands, as well as a loss of libido and impotence.
- In women: changes in the menstrual cycle, failure to ovulate, early menopause.
- Hypoglycaemia, ketoacidosis and hyperuricemia.
- Various gastrointestinal cancers.
- Liquid retention, bloating.
- Reddening and burst veins in the face.
- Foetal alcohol syndrome in pregnant women.
- Delirium tremens.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
- Depression, anxiety.
- Absence and unjustified lack of punctuality.
- Conflict with colleagues.
- Sluggishness, clumsiness and lack of efficiency.
- Deterioration of family relations.
- Psychological abuse and, in some cases, physical abuse.
- Separations and divorces.
- Damage and trauma to children.
- Feelings of frustration and helplessness.
- Violent episodes.
- Depression and changes in state of mind.
Alcoholism is a disease which can be treated. See the page about substance addiction treatment.