Taking Control of Alcohol by Claire Nash - HTML preview

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Part-I: Introduction

1. Alcoholism - An Overview

Alcoholism is the cause of death of about 100,000 people a year in the U.S.A..

The U.S.A. Federal Government spends around $166 billion on the indirect and direct health costs of alcoholism.

The health of up to half of the adult U.S. population is affected by alcohol, causing it to be a leading factor affecting the health of the nation.

Alcohol lowers our body’s resistance and immune system, so alcoholics

contract infections like bacterial pneumonia relatively easily and this leads to more complex, dangerous and expensive medical problems.

Alcoholism is dependence on alcohol consumption along with an

uncontrollable desire for alcohol which leads to serious physical, emotional, and social problems.

Alcoholism does not have one definite cause. Contributing factors include;

• Affluence

• Easy availability of alcohol

• Social and peer pressures and

• Emotional disturbances.

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The negative effects of alcohol can include extensive damage to your body’s organs, including your heart, liver, kidney and brain to the point of causing death.

Alcoholism is also a major factor in serious motor vehicle accidents,

relationship problems and break-ups, assaults and even suicide.

Alcoholism is on the rise among teenagers and even younger children. They see drinking alcohol as a way to acceptance with their peers and fear alienation from their friends if they don’t ‘join in’.

Dependence on alcohol is extremely dangerous because it reduces the person’s self control and is a major cause of;


broken homes and relationships


financial setbacks due to loss of employment


stealing to get money for alcohol


irresponsible driving causing serious accidents and


loss of self-respect and esteem with friends and colleagues.

But there are many valuable treatments and ways to reduce the ongoing effects and dependence on alcohol. Improvements do not come easily; withdrawal

periods are stressful and difficult for the alcoholic and immediate family members.

Treatments include detoxification programs with group counselling and

psychotherapy for combating psychological issues and physical ailments.

Different therapies supervised by experienced medical practitioners like Copyright © 2005 Claire Nash


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nutritional therapy, aversion therapy and regulated abstinence programming can turn around the lives of alcoholics and give them back their families and friends.

Children of alcoholic parents experience serious trauma and sometimes grow up to be very rebellious. They may suffer from several abnormal conditions after they grow up. Such children have Adult Children of Alcoholics


Alcoholics who quit taking alcohol are recovering alcoholics and must focus on retaining their control over the temptation of alcohol which is everywhere in modern society.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are two of the most well-known and

respected philanthropic organizations which contribute to the welfare and well-being of alcoholics, their children, and families. They support rehabilitation programs and offer moral support in times of extreme crisis. Most members of such associations are past alcoholics so they are best able to understand and visualize traumas and agonies of alcoholism.

Some ways to counteract the growing tide of alcoholism is through social education of the whole population, limiting advertisements especially those that might be particularly attractive to very young people, increasing the cost of products that contain alcohol and extensive involvement of federal

organizations to curb and reduce alcoholism.

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2. Is Alcoholism a Disease or a Vice?

Alcoholism is an uncontrolled desire to drink alcohol. Some life experiences which may increase the attraction include emotional setbacks, physical

disabilities, habits or pressure to conform with the accepted practices of your colleagues and friends or people you want to socialize with.

Whatever be the reason, drinking alcohol beyond permissible limits is

alcoholism. So, what are permissible limits? There cannot be just one set limit for everyone – we’re individuals.

Many medical experts define alcoholism as a psychological abnormality or physiological disease in a person. If it is a psychological shortcoming, you can control your addiction largely but not if it is any physiological deficiency.

Other research presents alcoholism tries to differentiate between people who drink heavily to overcome past or present emotional problems and those who drink due to a genetic disorder with the latter said to be suffering from symptoms of alcoholism disease. And there are many further variations.

Medical Terminology of Alcoholism

There is no single universal definition of alcoholism accepted right across medical circles. You cannot take a blood test to determine your alcoholic tendencies. Blood tests only indicate alcohol levels in your blood and not your inclination to consume alcohol.

Different medical professionals and researchers favor various yardsticks to diagnose alcoholism in individuals. Medical practitioners diagnose you as an alcoholic according to the defining symptoms which they, based on their

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experience and research, believe are most significant indicators of alcoholism, such as the presence of diagnosable physical diseases which are known to be due to consumption of alcohol like cirrhosis of liver, etc.

To understand alcoholism, you need to know the views of both camps; those to whom alcoholism is a disease and the other, equally respected researchers and practitioners, who believe that alcoholism is not a disease.

One View; ‘Alcoholism is a disease’

The supporters of this view portray alcoholism as a genetic disorder in some persons whom, they say, can consume liquor in larger quantities with higher tolerance levels in the initial stages. After a certain point, the patient’s tolerance levels fall drastically.

Drinking becomes a habit which brings serious problems into their lives. These practitioners believe that the result is likely to be death or lunacy. The American Medical Association (AMA) also views alcoholism as a disease

because it satisfies all the determining criteria of disease-symptoms; persistent, progressive, treatable, and with a strong chance of relapse.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American

Society of Addiction Medicine also fully support this definition and argument.

The Other View; ‘Alcoholism is not a disease, but a vice’

Supporters of this view questioning the meaning of word ‘disease’ itself.

‘Disease is a pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or

environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or Copyright © 2005 Claire Nash


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symptoms’ according to The American Heritage Dictionary. However, even

the common cold does not fall under this definition of disease. A layman can immediately understand meaning, implications, and effects of a disease such as cancer. But, the same man cannot be clear about alcoholism.

Alcoholism refers to unacceptable levels of drinking and lacks any identifiable characteristics which are common to every person that suffers from it. It will affect your family and your behavioral patterns but they will not be identical in degree or effect with the experiences of other people who are affected by alcohol. While it is believed that you can control the extent and some effects of alcoholism through your actions, the occurrence and impact of other diseases are due to genetic or environmental factors over which you cannot exercise much, if any, control.

While there is such a wide division of opinion among experienced researchers and practitioners in this area, it is best to not let ourselves be side-tracked by theories and just concentrate on measures to combat alcoholism as it affects us or those close to us.

Copyright © 2005 Claire Nash


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