Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Alcoholic beverages have been around for nearly 10,000 years, and, in all that time, people have had problems limiting how much they can and should consume. People have recognized the danger of drinking too much, and we now understand that alcoholism is a disease that can be treated.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also called alcoholism, “is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism. Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe.” If unchecked, it can lead to distress and problems affecting your quality of life.

Facts About Alcohol Use

  • In one study, 85.6 percent of people 18 and older said they drank alcohol at some point during their lives, 69.5 percent said they drank in the last year, and “54.9 percent (59.1 percent of men in this age group and 51.0 percent of women in this age group) reported that they drank in the past month.”
  • A 2019 report by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that nearly 15 million) people 12 and older had alcohol abuse disorder. This statistic includes nine million males and about 5.5 million females.
  • A standard drink contains about 14.0 grams or a little more than one tablespoon of pure alcohol in America.
  • The phrase “binge drinking” means that if you’re a man, you consume five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting. For women, the number is four.
  • For men, “heaving drinking” constitutes more than 15 drinks per week; eight for women.

Who shouldn’t drink alcohol?

  • The legal drinking age is 21, so if you’re younger, don’t drink alcohol.
  • If you’re pregnant or may be expecting.
  • You shouldn’t drink while driving, planning on driving, or participating in other activities needing skill, coordination, and attentiveness.
  • People who take a particular prescription or store-bought medicine which could interact harmfully with alcohol.
  • Those suffering from certain medical conditions.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.

Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Alcohol use disorder is a brain function disease and demands medical and psychological therapies to control it. In some cases, it can be mild, modest, or severe. It can happen quickly or slowly, building over time and becoming a problem. It’s also referred to as alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, or alcoholism.

Know the symptoms of alcoholism

  • You can’t limit the quantity of alcohol you consume
  • The desire to dial down on your drinking or try unsuccessfully to reduce alcohol intake
  • You spend considerable time imbibing, getting alcohol, or dealing with the aftereffects of alcohol use
  • You have a strong appetite or desire to drink alcohol
  • You fail or otherwise can’t fulfill major commitments at home, work, or school because of repeated alcohol use
  • You know that your drinking is causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems, but you keep drinking, anyway 
  • You’ve given up on or cut back on time spent on social and work activities and pastimes
  • You find yourself using alcohol when and where it’s not safe, like when driving or swimming
  • You’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol to the point where you require more alcohol to feel the effect
  • You find yourself suffering through withdrawal symptoms, wracked by nausea, sweating, and shaking. This especially happens when you don’t drink or drink to escape these symptoms

It’s possible that certain medications like ketamine, with psychoactive effects, may have a positive and long-lasting impact on people who suffer from alcoholism.

Diagnosis & Treatment

There’s no single test or diagnostic for alcohol use disorder like other illnesses. The symptoms and results of regular, heavy, and dangerous consumption of alcohol should be a reliable indicator, but talking with your healthcare provider is a good idea, too. Your doctor will make a diagnosis when there’s an acknowledgment that drinking interferes with daily life or impacts your health. 

Treatment options may include:

  • Medicine like ketamine.
  • Psycho- or talk therapy with the help of a mental health specialist.
  • Certain medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
  • Interacting with support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate! Recovery, and others.

Final Thoughts

Alcoholism is a severe disease that affects brain function and can have other dangerous consequences if left untreated. It’s not something to be taken lightly and isn’t a sign of moral failure. If you suffer from symptoms of an alcohol use disorder, talk to a medical doctor who specializes in alcoholism.

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