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What is Alcoholism? How to Recognize the Disease
Alcoholism is the most dangerous kind of alcohol abuse. It’s defined as a physical dependence on alcoholic drinks; the user is no longer able to control their urges for alcohol and their drinking habits. Their body demands and craves the euphoric effects of alcohol and will feel compelled to drink whenever possible. Like many other substance addictions, addicts consumer alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
In short, alcoholism is drinking too much, too often without the ability to stop. Drinking to excess will ultimately take a toll on health, relationships and even day-to-day life.
One of the most common questions is; what is alcohol abuse and is it possible to spot chronic alcoholism? Many who enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with dinner tend to avoid the idea of addiction. It is arguable that if a person has wine with every nightly meal they are, or could be, addicted.
How is it created and what are the effects of alcohol abuse?
Alcohol is part of beverages typically created through fermentation. Yeast and bacteria consume sugars, producing the by-product of alcohol. The longer the ingredients are fermented, the stronger the beverage usually would be.
Drinking alcohol creates a depressive effect on the nervous system, which lowers the respiratory rate and blood pressure. Alcohol helps people feel more relaxed and less inhibited in social situations. Drinking makes a social butterfly out of almost anyone. Some people who are more susceptible to alcohol report feeling sleepy, lightheaded or otherwise euphoric after just a small amount of alcohol.
While it may feel good, alcohol has some very dangerous long term effects on the body. The day after drinking, many people experience a hangover. Symptoms of a hangover include nausea, sensitivity to light, sound and an overall sick feeling.
Over time, alcohol can become an addictive substance. Like many other addictive substances, alcohol can cause the user to build tolerance over time and a physical dependence.
How is alcohol abuse defined?
It’s a common misconception to say that social drinking cannot eventually lead to addiction; or that a drink a day is relatively harmless. The truth is any level of alcohol consumption can be problematic.
Binge drinking, qualified as five or more alcoholic beverages in a two-hour span for men and three for women, is a potentially deadly habit, even if it happens only once in a while.
Drinking is ingrained in many cultures, often seen as a social activity and a way of fitting in. In American culture, even the media glamorizes alcohol use. This creates a false image that drinking is a required social tool, a right of passage, a way of coping and a symbol of status.
Are You at Risk of Alcoholism?
Anyone can fall into alcoholism. Some groups, however, are more susceptible to this affliction than others. These groups include veterans, teenagers, college students, professionals and pregnant women.
Veterans who have served in combat zones are more likely to turn to the drink when dealing with trauma and the difficult emotions that come with PTSD. Active members of the military are more likely than the general population to succumb to alcoholism.
The college experience stereotypically includes drinking games and wild, alcohol-fueled parties. This means teenagers and college students alike are more at risk of developing alcoholism than older adults. College parties aren’t often supervised and that lack of supervision can create an out of control situation involving binge drinking and other drug abuse.
Working professionals lead stressful jobs every day, often seeing happy hour as a solace and a way to socialize. Or they enjoy going home and cracking open a beer, two or three in front of the TV. Over time it can turn into an addiction. High-functioning alcoholics don’t look for help easily and have a more difficult time admitting their issue.
Recovery from addiction is not a one-time process. It’s a lifelong journey for the addict and their loved ones. By knowing and understanding some of the obstacles that are most commonly faced throughout the journey, the support system the recovering addict has built can assist them in living a sober, cleaner life.
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