What Is an Alcoholic?

Alcoholics are people who are physically and emotionally dependent on alcohol. People who abuse alcohol may have similar symptoms and be on their way to alcoholism, but do not yet manifest physical dependence. Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that afflicts more than 18 million Americans. Here is some information you need to know about alcoholism.

Risk Factors of Alcoholism

Research shows that alcoholism is partially genetic. Those who have parents or other relatives who have drinking problems have a greater propensity for the disease. Having friends or partners who regularly drink also increases your risk. Popular media also contributes to the problem by presenting drinking alcohol as trendy or desirable. Those who start drinking at an early age tend to have drinking problems later on, as do those who live in cultures where alcohol consumption is common and accepted. People who try to solve mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder with alcohol are also at risk for alcoholism.

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Symptoms of Alcoholism

If you suspect someone you know has a problem with alcoholism, there are certain signs you should take note of. One of the first manifestations that alcohol abuse has progressed to alcoholism is an increased tolerance for alcohol. More drink is needed than before to feel its effects. In addition, when alcoholics stop drinking, they often feel withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, shakiness, sweating, insomnia, anxiety and depression, and in extreme cases fever, hallucinations and seizures. Alcoholics often drink more than they intend to and are unable to stop drinking. Alcoholics continue to drink even though they know they are causing problems at work, at home and to themselves. They often become violent when drinking, are hostile when confronted about it, and deny or minimize the problem.

Dangers of Alcoholism

There are a plethora of health problems associated with alcoholism, including high blood pressure, heart damage, liver disease, diabetes complications, neurological disorders, increased risk of cancer, a compromised immune system and death. Alcohol abuse during pregnancy increases the chances of a child having birth defects. Alcoholism also leads to accidental injury, unprotected sex, accidents while driving, and suicide. Alcoholics tend to have problems with domestic violence, unemployment, poverty and divorce. Alcoholics also often emotionally traumatize loved ones such as friends, relatives, life partners and children.

How You Can Help

Helping an alcoholic is difficult and involves a long-term commitment. It is usually not as easy as talking to the person, as alcoholics tend to deny they have a problem and rebel against treatment. You cannot force an alcoholic to stop drinking. The person needs to see the problem and want to stop. You need to make them aware of how they are hurting themselves and others. Educate yourself about alcoholism so you know what you are dealing with. Consider attending Al-Anon, a support group for those who are close to people with alcohol problems. Seek the advice of a health care professional. Informal intervention involves talking honestly with the person about the problem. Formal intervention involves gathering a group of concerned friends and relatives, possibly with a professional counselor, to help the person realize the damage they are causing and suggest a specific course of action.

You cannot force someone to stop drinking, but that person cannot stop abusing alcohol without help. Recovery requires time, patience, and facing whatever problems caused the alcoholism in the first place. The good news is that alcoholism, though serious, is treatable.

This article was written by Travis Guerrero, a health and nutrition experts who hopes to help you live a healthier life. He recommends taking a look at Bay Area Recovery’s drug and alcohol rehab centers. Check out their website today and see how they can help you or someone you know get on track to recovery.  

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