Summary: Alcohol consumption is socially accepted; in many cultures, it is even a sign of adulthood. However, many people start drinking alcohol excessively. It seems that some people are susceptible to alcoholism. Alcoholism is a severe health issue. However, there is still a lack of good understanding of the problem. There is no single test that can help confirm the diagnosis. Nonetheless, there are now clearly defined alcoholism stages and proven ways to manage alcohol addiction. Thus, those addicted to alcohol must seek treatment, understanding that being sober is the new high.
Humans have consumed alcohol for ages. Its consumption is socially accepted. Not only that, in many societies, particularly in western nations, drinking alcohol is considered a sign of growing up as some say that only children must be sober. All this means that millions of people consume alcohol regularly. Studies suggest that almost 85% of adults in the US consume alcohol. About five to six percent of the total US adults are addicted to alcohol. It means that they are living with alcoholism. One of the issues with alcoholism is that it does not have well-defined boundaries. It is unclear who is an alcoholic. There are no tests or biomarkers that can be done to diagnose alcoholism. It means that alcoholism is mainly diagnosed clinically or indirectly.
There is also good news. Studies also show that consuming alcohol is not considered chic anymore. Therefore, there is some decline in excessive alcohol drinking. There has been a decline in alcohol consumption even in the last few years. It means that an increasing number of people realize the dangers of excessive alcohol drinking. And thus, many people now recognize that drinking alcohol is not essentially cool.
Alcohol Addiction is a Severe Health Problem
These days, excessive alcohol consumption is not more regarded as a habit or a lack of willpower to control oneself. Instead, medical science now views excessive alcohol consumption as a health disorder. In fact, medical science now defines the three stages of alcohol dependence. It starts with the first stage, when a person begins consuming alcohol frequently. Although, at this stage, a person does not have many issues with alcohol, nonetheless, they seek a reason to drink. For example, during the first stage, a person starts drinking alcohol to combat boredom, celebrate something, and combat loneliness.
During the first stage, the body starts adapting to alcohol. It means that such individuals do not show many signs of alcohol consumption and can even function well when intoxicated. In addition, these people can resist some of the effects of alcohol. These individuals start developing physical and mental dependence from the middle or second stage. Their organs start becoming dependent on alcohol. Their heart starts beating irregularly, which causes damage to their heart muscles. Excessive drinking causes changes in the liver and gastrointestinal tract. They start drinking habitually and start developing erratic behavior. They also show withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, and severe irritability.
Finally, many develop late-stage alcohol dependence. It is a full-blown alcohol dependency. It is a stage that is called alcoholism. These people live with severe malnutrition, liver disease, low immunity, heart disease, and other physical and mental ailments. They often suffer from blackouts and memory loss. As one can understand, the third stage of alcohol dependence is a full-blown health disorder that requires medical treatment.
Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
It is vital to understand that alcohol addiction shares many traits with drug addiction. Therefore, one must be similarly treated for alcohol addiction. In the US, a 12-step program for addiction treatment is commonly used. But, of course, it is not the only way to treat addiction, but one of the recommendations. It has some important components, like realizing helplessness in overcoming addiction. It is also about believing that higher power can help and then asking the higher power to help. Finally, it is about making a list of shortcomings and then trying to overcome them. This 12-step program is also about maintaining the personal inventory, admitting when one is wrong, and more.
The good thing about the 12-step program is that it focuses much on boosting inner strength and enabling people to overcome their addiction by themselves. Of course, no single method may work for all. Many people cannot overcome addictions through this program or sheer willpower. In such cases, seeking specialized treatment for the addiction is the way forward. It is vital to understand that being sober is the new high.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA