What is Alcoholism?
A health article about Alcoholism from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies
Alcoholism can be given a lot of definitions and all of them
stress the fact that there is a terrible disease that involves
addiction to spirits.
Apart from the physical dependence on
alcohol, there are other psychological, genetic and social
factors that may play a role in the development of alcoholism.
Many social, economic and public health problems are determined
by this very serious disease.
Alcoholism refers to addiction to alcohol. It is a chronic disorder, in which a person is unable to
refrain from frequent and excess consumption of alcohol for physical or psychological reasons.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed alcoholism as one of the three most deadly
killer diseases of the 20th century.
Alcoholism is also one of the serious social problems. It often brings poverty and certain amount
of crime and results in material unhappiness and broken homes. It also leads to numerous traffic
Alcohol is not a product found in nature. It results from decomposition and as such belongs to a
family of poisons. Ethyl alcohol, the main intoxicating ingredient in wine, beer and distilled liquor
is a toxic drug which depresses the brain and nervous system. Alcohol cannot be called a food
for it enters the alimentary canal and is not changed or digested in any way.
It is quickly
absorbed in the bloodstream and then travels to every part of the body, adversely affecting vital
organs like brain and liver.
Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism
According to the WHO, "Alcoholics are those excessive drinkers whose dependence on alcohol
has attained such a degree that it shows a noticeable mental disturbance or interference with
their bodily or mental health, their interpersonal relations and their smooth social and economic
functions, or who show the prodormal signs of such development. "
Alcoholics have a puffy face with bloodshot eyes, a hoarse voice and a rapid pulse. They are
suspicious, irritable and over- emotional. Vomiting, delirium, impaired judgement and disturbed
sleep are some of the other symptoms.
The chronic alcoholic, who would rather drink than eat, fails to get enough vitamins. The few
vitamins acquired by him are drained out of his system in the process of burning the alcohol in
his body. Vitamin deficiency can lead to delirium tremors, convulsions, nutritious, disorders of
the eyes and impaired memory.
Excessive drinking often causes premature greying of hair due
to vitamin deficiency. Chronic alcoholism results in a depletion of minerals in the body,
particularly magnesium. Its lack produces symptoms like tremor of the hands, feet and tongue,
convulsions ,mental clouding and perspiration.
Excessive drinking imposes a strain on the liver. It gradually destroys its functions and often
causes cirrhosis of the liver. It leads to disorders of the stomach and bowels. It can cause brain
damage as brain cells are often affected by it. Alcohol also affects the heart which becomes
weak and flabby.
When alcoholism is concerned, symptoms include craving for
alcohol, incapacity to have control over the use of alcohol, a
greater tolerance to its effects, and withdrawal symptoms
during the periods of abstinence. One should as well know that
many alcoholics deny having a problem.
In many cases
intervention is necessary in order to persuade them to start
treatment. Treatment in cases of alcoholism usually includes
detoxification, counseling and psychotherapy, as well as
treatment of associated medical problems, and different
programmes for recovery and support.
Types of Alcoholism
Many researchers believe that addiction is a behavior that can be controlled to some extent and also a brain disease. And since some testing with functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) found that all addictions tend to cause nearly the same reactions inside the brain, there could be one type of control model for addiction health-related issues.
In other words, just as there is one disorder or disease labeled asthma, there would be one for addiction, covering all addictions; gambling, smoking, overeating, drugs, etc. Then one main treatment strategy or plan could be used to treat all addictions.
How addiction works in a nutshell is like this. The brain, the center of the body’s nervous system, handles addiction by increasing dopamine levels in response to increased reactions from behaviors, also referred to as compulsions, like gambling or over eating, and / or in response to increased repeated substance abuse, like from cocaine or alcohol. And this addiction affects the three functioning processes of the nervous system; sensing, perceiving and reacting. How? Let’s take a quick peak…
Dopamine, the chemical transmitter to the “pleasure center,” the place where survival instincts like eating and reproduction focus in the brain, activates cells individually or energizes them. Each energized cell in turn energizes another cell, and so on down the line, resulting in a spontaneous or systematic process of ecstasy or elation.
The problem is the brain doesn’t realize what it is that is causing the ecstasy reaction. So when this flutter of activity increases the creation of dopamine for the negative behaviors and substances like drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., it neglects the natural survival instinct reaction mechanisms, replacing them with the ecstasy instead.
Note that also, depending upon the addiction, nervous system functions are altered. So sensing, perceiving and reacting functions of individuals are impeded. For example, alcohol is a depressant and slows down all of these functions. So a drunk driver facing an immediate collision will in all likelihood react slower than a healthy, alert driver.
And whether or not the addictive substances are inhaled, going into the lung system; or injected, traveling via the blood system; or swallowed, entering the digestive system, also affects different bodily reactions, responses and overall health.
One long-term effect is an increased tolerance level with dopamine reaching out into other brain areas that cloud judgment and behavioral considerations and choices. And ultimately depression results, even amidst opposing or negative stimuli, like the negative effects of narcotics on behaviors and on the body / mind and like trying to withdrawal or discontinue use.
Note: other long-term effects can include changing of the brain’s shape and possible permanent brain damage, depending upon the addiction and length of compulsive activity. And other health problems like cancer from cigarette smoking can result.
Addiction summed up is: compulsive behavior despite negative consequences.
What Causes Alcoholism?
Alcoholism results from intemperate drinking. Sometimes it sneaks upon a person comparatively
rapidly; other times, years may pass before a person becomes a full-fledged alcoholic. A
weak-minded person consoles himself by taking to drugs or alcohol. In doing so he simply tries
to escape the situation rather than face it boldly.
A person generally takes to drinking as a means to enliven social life, to overcome anxiety or to
induce sleep. He becomes an alcoholic if he gets dependent on alcohol physically and
psychologically. He resorts to heavy drinking because of his maladaptive way of dealing with
Alcoholism involves physical and psychological addiction to the
alcohol, and it often gets to a chronic, progressive form. There
are situations in which it can become fatal, when alcohol
consumption begins to interfere with your health, your social
life or your occupational functioning.
continue to consume alcohol in huge quantities despite the
multiple negative consequences of the disease. Nowadays,
alcoholism is the most serious form of alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism can be also defined in terms like "having a problem
with drinking". If one has a problem with drinking, that can
result in health or social problems (drunk driving, for
instance), but that doesn't make one yet dependent on alcohol
and it doesn't mean one has fully lost control over using
spirits - as in the case of alcoholism.
There are some alarming facts to consider regarding addictive disorders. For instance, a recent report in the National Drug Addiction Recovery Month Kit showed the cost of alcohol and illicit drug use in the workplace, including lost productivity, accidents and medical claims to be an estimated $140 billion per year.
And alcohol abuse and dependence occurs four times as much among men over the age of 65 than women in the same age group, according to the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, 1999.
Drugs and Alcohol Addiction Behaviors / Traits
Regardless of the type of alcohol or drug dependent person, addiction or dependence is characterized by professional standards according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (1994).
To sum up, the DSM-IV identifies an addict as having three or more of the following “symptoms” within a year’s time period:
- Mental thoughts focused on the substance (alcohol or drugs) even when not using.
- Withdrawal from society, friends, loved ones, normal activities – to focus on continued substance use.
- Using more than expected
- Substance abuse even though negative consequences directly result from the abuse (at any level: physical, emotional, social, work-related, etc.)
- Attempts to stop or “control” use and withdrawal symptoms develop (shakes, hallucinations, cravings, etc.)
- Tolerance levels can change; i.e. it takes more and more to get and sustain a drunk or high state
Internal Motivators– Many decide to kick their addictions based upon interior motives like love, a sense of achievement, competition, responsibility and a number of other reasons. A love for a child can make some stop the denial process dead in its tracks, allowing recovery to step in.
Watching a close friend or relative who is farther along the addictive path of destruction can also be an eye-opener, resulting in some addicts adopting the “I can do it” attitude to kick the habit.
Some simply want their own self-respect back and respect from others. While other addicts prefer better health and a sharper mental state, and decide to overcome their addictions and recover. Regardless of the reasons, internal motivators can be welcome stepping-stones in the path of recovery.
External Motivators - Other motivators along the way are external, like money, work, housing, etc. For example, an addict is generally well aware of the money needed for the continued purchasing of the addictive substances. Someone not used to living in less desirable conditions because income is lacking, may not need much of a jolt of reality other than the first eviction notice, to spur him or her to quit spending hard-earned money on drugs, gambling, porn or cigarettes, etc.
And some who may really value their jobs and are striving to maintain good work standards and ethics, may see reality when they are passed over for a promotion or annual raise because of tardiness, sloppiness, mishandling of money, etc., and may seek help to get their work act together promptly.
To help with internal and motivators, addicts and their support people can turn to recovery tools like books, videos, movies, healing music, speakers and events focused on addiction and recovery. A good place to begin is at your own local library or favorite bookstore.
Online you can search Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble (BN.com) or even your favorite search engine. Type in terms like “addiction recovery” and / or add the addictive substance or behavior (“gambling recovery” “overcoming cigarette addiction”).
When to seek Medical Advice:
Some people, both professionals and non-professionals or lay people, believe that there are three types of people who drink and use drugs; Social Users, Substance Abusers and Addicts.
They consider Social Users those people who are supposedly trying to make something more out of otherwise positive, upbeat social situation – be it an interview, sporting event, date, family gathering or other activity where people are together.
The user may be uncomfortable and try drugs to feel more at ease, to fit in, to feel less inhibited or any other number of mood-alterations, instead of simply not going or facing reality and participating in healthier situations for himself or herself. And supposedly, as a result of this social drug or alcohol use, these Social Users do not report negative consequences like being out of control or exhibiting any bad behaviors.
Substance abusers, on the other hand, who supposedly use alcohol or drugs in light of negative experiences or episodes, as well as positive ones, report some negative effects. In general, though, instances seem relatively minor to them, like lampshades on heads or broken promises and after-party complaints.
Sometimes only one negative issue will surface afterwards; sometimes a combination of issues will surface. Not much concrete to go on is characterized with this middle stage.
Now for the heavier hitters, known as Abusers, a number of negative consequences result, regardless of whether or not the alcohol or drugs are taken for positive, negative, any and all reasons.
From one to any combination of the following negatives are often reported; negative reoccurrence of the same bad behaviors (maybe broken lamps from tripping instead of lampshades on heads), broken promises and broken limits set beforehand, mental mania or diving into deep subjects (almost in a psychological way), denial (of being drunk or high), crying jag or emotional outbursts, memory loss or confusion, and many (repeated) complaints are brought to light after the events by others.
Drugs and Alcohol Addiction Help
Similar to the key to getting help for co-dependency, the key to getting help for drug and alcohol addiction is first in acknowledging the problem, then in getting help. Check out library books on co-dependency and to find helpful resources.
Search the Yellow Pages, online search engines, 12-Step Groups listed in community calendars, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics (or the specific drug name like “Cocaine”) Anonymous, etc.
Some substance addicts can be medically treated via a detoxifying program, followed up by treatment with new medicines like Bupropion (Zyban) and Naltrexone (ReVia). These medicines help people who are refraining from addictive substances to keep their desires for them in check.
Self Care strategies for Living with Alcoholism
Regardless of the addiction, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, relationships, etc., a 12-step program is the fundamental tool of many recovery programs. The basic 12 steps that groups’ members actively stress are as follows, varying in some degree per addiction recovery program. Note that no particular religion or spiritual affiliation is required. All are welcome and invited.
1. We admit we are powerless over our addiction - that our lives have become unmanageable
2. We believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it
11. We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Basically members recite the steps at their meetings. And there may be a presentation or group discussion based upon one particular step that day, with the rest of the event focused on individual needs or issues that are brought up by members, so that each member gets to address his or her top or immediate concerns, seek help and help others to get through, “One day at a time.”
ten commandments to prevent alcoholism, offered by
psychiatrist Dr. William B. Terhune. These are :
1. never drink when you ‘ need one’;
2. sip slowly ;
3. space your drinks, taking a second drink 30 minutes after the first and a third an hour after the second ;
4. dilute your alcohol;
5. keep an accurate and truthful record of the amount and number of drinks you take ;
6. never conceal the amount of alcohol you drink ;
7. do not drink on an empty stomach ;
8. stop drinking on ‘signal ‘ ( signals are lunch, dinner, fatigue, sex stimulation, boredom, frustration and bedtime);
9. make it a rule never to take a drink to escape discomfort - either physical or mental ; and
10. never, never take a drink in the morning thinking it will cure a hangover.
Diet change strategies:
Using Ayurveda Therapy:
The chronic alcoholic first of all must make a firm resolve to stop drinking. He should abstain
from alcohol all at once for the habit cannot be got rid of in gradual stages.
The most effective way to treat alcoholism is to build the body’s nutritional integrity soaps to
prevent craving for stimulants like drinks. The patients should be put on a cleansing juice fast for
at least ten days in the beginning.
During this period, he should have juice of an orange every
two hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The juice may be diluted with warm water, if desired. If orange
juice does not agree, vegetable juices may be taken.
Each day while fasting, bowels should be
cleansed of effete and poisonous matter thrown off by the self-cleansing process set up by the
body. This can be achieved by warm water enema.
During the juice fast, the patient will usually feel no craving for alcohol. This will give a good 10
day start towards breaking the drinking habit and would help remove not only the physical
dependence but also the psychological factors. After the initial fast on juices, the optimum diet of
vital nutrients is essential. Such a diet should consist of whole grains, cereals, nuts, seeds and
sprouts, fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is advisable that in the beginning of the treatment, the patient is given a suitable substitute to
relieve the craving if and when such a craving occurs. The best substitute drink for alcohol is a
glass of fresh fruit juice, sweetened with honey, if desired. In the alternative, wholesome candy
may be taken. The patient should always have easily available juices, candy, or other snacks to
be taken between meals if he feels a craving for a stimulant.
All refined foods such as sugar, white rice, macaroni products and white flour and meat should
be avoided. The patient should eat several small meals a day in preference to two or three large
ones and avoid strong condiments such as pepper, mustard, and chilli. He should not smoke as
this will only increase his desire for alcohol.
Apples are considered valuable in the treatment of alcoholism as their use removes intoxication
and reduces the craving for wine and other intoxicating liquors. The raw celery juice is also
considered helpful. It has a sobering effect and is an antidote to alcohol.
In addition to proper nutrition, plenty of rest and outdoor exercises are necessary. The healthy
condition of the appetite centre, which controls the craving for alcohol is improved by exercise.
Yogic asans for general health such as padmasan, vajrasan, vakrasan, paschimotanasan,
yogamudra, bhuajangasan, halasan and shalabhasana and yogic kriyas like jalneti, kunjal and
simple Pranayamas like kapalbhati , anuloma-viloma, shitali and sitkari will be beneficial.
Copious drinking of water, hot fomentations on the stomach and abdomen with a wet girdle pack
between applications are also effective water treatment for alcoholism.
Vitamin & Nutrient Associations
Even when we try to eat well, we're disadvantaged. The nutritional content of most food has been compromised over the years, not only by deficient soils and modern production, transportation, storage and processing methods, but also by the enormous amounts of chemical and artificial substances added to promote growth, storage life, taste and appearance.
It's for this reason that more and more medical authorities are advocating the use of vitamin and mineral supplements. However, finding them in the right combination can be both confusing and costly.
The nutrition products I am going to recommend you make use of knowledge gained from the botanical world's 6,000 year history. They incorporated health building nutritional herbs with the best modern technology to help our bodies cleanse and detoxify so that the cells - the tiniest living units - can be as fully nourished as possible.
This allows the cells to grow, repair and to perform their functions with the best possible efficiency so that we feel and look better and are more able to prevent and fight disease. Once the body begins to clear itself of toxins it can more efficiently absorb nutrition.
You may find benefit from our information on detoxification as well as a bit about detoxing because of change of diet
It may be due to difficulties with your digestive system that is causing your body to be starved of key nutrients, vitamins or minerals. In this case you may find useful answers by reviewing our article on Nutrition For Your Cells. There is also more information here about why is nutrition such an issue nowadays?
It may be that your metabolism has slowed due to pressures that have been placed on your system through life in general or through specific “challenges” you have faced in the last few months or last few years. Review this by looking at our article about balancing your Metabolic Rate.
Further reading through our articles on Alcoholism health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.
We wish you well in your search for solutions to this Alcoholism problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.
More Resources available about Alcoholism :
“ Learn How to Cope With a Family Member’s Addiction and How to Help Heal the Wounds in Your Life.”
Free Health Book.
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Some popular recovery books are:
• Addiction & Recovery for Dummies, by Brian F. Shaw, Paul Ritvo, Jane Irvine, M. David Lewis; For Dummies; (December 13, 2004).
• 7 Tools to Beat Addiction, by Stanton PHD Peele; Three Rivers Press; (July 27, 2004).
• The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior, by Craig Nakken; Hazelden Publishing & Educational Services; 2nd edition (September 1, 1996).
• The Addiction Workbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Quitting Alcohol and Drugs (New Harbinger Workbooks), by Patrick Fanning, John T. O'Neill, John O'Neill; New Harbinger Publications; (June 1, 1996).
• Bridges to Recovery : Addiction, Family Therapy, and Multicultural Treatment, by Jo-ann Krestan; Free Press; (March 15, 2000).
For online chat rooms and message boards where recovering addicts seek fellowship, simply type “recovery message board” or “recovery chat room” in your favorite search engine. Include specific addictions like gambling and cocaine for more focused groups.
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