Alcohol can be very destructive it affects every organ in the body and can lead to alcoholism which is a long-term chronic disease. Also referred to as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, alcoholism is a pattern of heavy drinking that can lead to serious life-threatening illnesses, relationship problems, career problems, legal problems, and preventable injuries and deaths caused by vehicle accidents.
There is no known cause for alcoholism but the following factors may influence the development of this chronic disease.
- Psychological factors
- Social factors
- Environmental factors
Alcohol consumption levels could also influence a person's chance of developing dependence according to Medline Plus such as; men consuming fifteen or more drinks per week, women consuming twelve or more drinks per week and for individuals consuming "five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week".
What is an Alcoholic?
An alcoholic suffers from alcoholism, they're preoccupied with drinking and are unable to control how much alcohol they consume even if their consumption is sadly causing serious problems in their home life, career or even financially. An alcoholic has a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond their ability to control it regardless of any rules and common sense.
Even though some people may have an abnormal response the first time they consume alcohol, the process of becoming alcohol dependent happens gradually, not overnight. Overtime drinking too much may change the normal balance of chemicals and nerve tracks in the brain that's associated with experiencing pleasure, judgment and the ability to exercise control over behavior. This could result in the craving of alcohol to restore good feelings or to remove negative ones.
What are the Symptoms of Alcoholism?
The component that distinguishes alcoholism from alcohol abuse is physical dependence which involves tolerance and withdrawal. Alcoholism is a progressive illness, increases in the frequency and quantity of alcohol can begin to produce more serious medical symptoms of dependence.
What is Alcohol Tolerance and Withdrawal?
As a person becomes tolerant they need to increase the amount of alcohol they're consuming to achieve the same effects. In other words, when a person becomes tolerant it takes an increase of alcohol for them to display signs of being intoxicated. If an individual is alcohol dependent they can experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop drinking.
An alcoholic could even begin experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as the effects of alcohol are wearing off. Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Appetite loss
Is Alcoholism Hard to Diagnose?
When a person abuses alcohol, drinking is one of the most important activities in their life. Alcoholism is a serious progressive disease that can be extremely difficult to diagnose unless a person's able to be completely honest about their pattern of drinking and disposition. Unfortunately denial is a common symptom of alcoholism so if an alcoholic is unwilling to be truthful about their drinking habits, an accurate diagnosis of alcoholism or alcohol abuse could be impossible to make.
What Serious Medical Problems are Caused from Alcoholism?
Alcoholism tends to get worse overtime that's why it's referred to as a progressive disease and unfortunately, long term abuse of alcohol can be extremely damaging to a person's physical health. Consuming large quantities of alcohol over extended periods of time can cause serious damage to the brain. Some of the serious health problems that can develop from long term abuse of alcohol are listed below:
- Cirrhosis which is the hardening of the liver
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Impaired muscle functioning
Because heavy drinkers don't eat nutritionally balanced meals and even skip them altogether at times they commonly suffer from nutritional imbalances and unfortunately have a weakened immune system. Another serious risk of alcoholism is brain damage which is caused from a vitamin B2 deficiency. A well-known condition known as Korsakoff Syndrome is an amnestic disorder, meaning people find it hard to remember events from the past and to learn new things.