Alcoholism

 

            In
America there are 17.6 million people addicted to alcohol. Seven million
children live in a home with at least one alcoholic parent. Drinking can cause
job loss, family issues, and cognitive changes; therefore, those who have a
drinking problem will improve their lives when they admit alcohol is a problem
and start taking steps toward recovery.

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            An
alcoholic is a person that suffers from the disease of alcoholism. They have an
inclination to drink beyond their control. Alcoholics crave alcohol all day
long. It consumes their thoughts from morning to night. Eventually, they drink uncontrollably,
going from just one or two drinks to an entire pack of beer a day.

            The
brain and body suddenly become dependent on alcohol. Intoxicating drinks
trigger endorphins in the human brain which bond to receptors that cause
feelings of pleasure. People crave more alcohol since they get these
pleasurable sensations. This leads to being more intoxicated or drunk.

Desires of
alcohol can persuade a person to drink, even if he or she does not want to. This
happens often, especially around other people drinking. Difficult situations
can also lead to more drinking.

            Alcoholism can be caused by genes. Children
who have an alcoholic parent are four times more likely to acquire alcoholism
than the typical person. Genes are accountable for half of the risk of alcohol
addiction. In a NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) study,
scientists found that genetic components contribute to 40-60% of people who
abuse alcohol. Strong
genes are the
exception to the rule, and a gene responsible for the movement of
gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in synapses between neurons appears to be a
strong gene associated with a higher risk of alcoholism. It is still unknown
how, precisely, this genetic sequence can ultimately influence the outcome for
a person. (source 2).

Environmental
elements can influence alcoholism. Developmental transitions, such as puberty
and increasing independence, have been associated with alcohol use. (source 1)

Adolescents that drink are more likely
to develop alcoholism later in life. Kids that grew up in a sexual or
physically abused home can also be alcoholics.

            There
are a few stages that lead to alcoholism. Social drinking is the first stage of
alcohol abuse. “Social drinking involves
slow, recreational consumption of alcohol as part of family gathering or
special event.” (p. 43 coping with alcohol abuse). Social drinkers can
control their drinking and hardly ever drink to get intoxicated. For these
drinkers, alcohol is a subordinate activity. What interests these people is the
gathering, food, and being able to have fun without being drunk.

            An
alcohol abuser’s family may start to notice problems when they start sneaking
drinks. The abuser may begin to feel guilty and be engrossed with alcohol. Blackouts, drinking to the point of drunkenness, and
increased tolerance (needing more alcohol to achieve the same effect) are all
signs of early alcoholism. (source 4). Alcoholics will find new friends that are also
heavy drinkers and lose interest in previous liked activities that did not
involve drinking. They will also start to miss work or are late.

            The
middle stage is when the abuser’s life is unmanageable. They will deny that
there is a problem with their drinking. At
this point in the stage, he or she will drink more than intended. (source 4).
Alcohol numbs what you feel, including your
emotions. You don’t feel as down, and loneliness is less oppressive. (source 5)

Drunkenness desensitizes the feelings of
depression and other unsatisfactory feelings they may have. People have fears
that go away once they are intoxicated. They will do more of the things that
they were anxious about, which isn’t always a good thing since they’re doing it
under the influence of alcohol. Drinkers are bound to drink in the morning to
try and relieve the hangover from the night before.

            In
the last stage, there are many medical issues. Medical complications are numerous and include liver diseases such as
cirrhosis or hepatitis. (source 4). Acute pancreatitis, which is
inflammation of the pancreas, higher blood pressure, and esophageal bleeding
all occurs because of protracted alcohol use. Additionally, these people are at
higher risks for strokes and heart attacks. Humans in this stage of alcoholism can
have seizures and delirium tremens if they stop drinking since they are dependent
on alcohol.

            People
who drink have problems keeping a job because of feelings of depression, anxiety,
fear of failure, and hopelessness. They have to drink in order to remove these
feelings for a short time, so they can’t work. It is dangerous for the
co-workers because they are working with an impaired, drunk person.

            Treatments
are available for alcoholism. There are support groups, therapy, and even medications.
In order to start the treatment process, these people must accept the fact that
they have a problem.

There are
many support groups in the United States for drinking. These groups focus on developing
skills needed to stop drinking, establishing a strong support system, setting
and reaching goals, and coping with triggers that may cause relapse.

An alcohol rehab program is the most
effective facilitator for recovery. (source 3) At these
rehab centers, they have a detox program. Counselors have to be careful how
they do this because of alcohol withdrawals. Symptoms include sweating, rapid
heartbeat, nausea, hallucinations, restlessness, and seizures. It can take up
to 10 days for the detox. There are special medicines that can help the
withdrawal symptoms. Topiramate can treat seizures, Naltrexone can assist with the
prevention of relapse, and Acamprosate can lessen the impulse to drink alcohol.

AA (alcoholics
anonymous) groups have a 12-step program to stop drinking. This is an
organization for individuals that have been struggling with alcoholism. Once
that the person admits to having a problem, the 12-step program can begin. The
counselors believe that it is a necessity to look to something greater than
themselves to recuperate. Alcoholics are encouraged to write down all the people
that they did wrong, and make amends with them.

Alcoholism
can affect the whole family, even if there is only one person with a problem. Alcoholism
is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause. According
to Silverstein (1990), one of every four families has problems with alcohol.
(source 6). Studies show that people with a lack of motivation are less likely to
get addicted to alcohol than those who are more motivated.

When women drink
while pregnant, the alcohol can effect the fetus. Alcohol is carried through
organs, tissues, and the placenta. When a pregnant woman drinks, her blood concentration
is the same as her baby’s. There are approximately 5,000 babies born every year
with critical damage caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS can prevent
oxygen and nutrition from getting to the baby’s vital organs. Some symptoms
include heart problems, lack of focus, hyperactivity, problems hearing or
seeing, learning disabilities, and many more problems.

Parental alcoholism also has
serious effects on regular children in the family. Many of these children have common symptoms such as low self-esteem,
loneliness, guilt, feelings of helplessness, fears of abandonment, and chronic
depression. (source 6).

 

 

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