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Alcoholism - What to do about your Drinking problem

Jul 23, 2008
Alcoholism is an illness marked by drinking alcoholic beverages at a level that interferes with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or occupational responsibilities. Alcoholism is divided into 2 categories: dependence and abuse. People with alcohol dependence, the most severe alcohol disorder, usually experience tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. Withdrawal occurs when alcohol is discontinued or intake is decreased. Alcohol dependents spend a great deal of time drinking alcohol, and obtaining it. People who are dependent on or abuse alcohol continue to drink it despite evidence of physical or psychological problems. Those with dependence have more severe problems and a greater compulsion to drink.

Because alcohol affects many organs in the body, long-term heavy drinking puts you at risk for developing serious health problems, some of which are described below. More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease. Some drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, as a result of long-term heavy drinking. Moderate drinking can have beneficial effects on the heart, especially among those at greatest risk for heart attacks, such as men over the age of 45 and women after menopause. But long-term heavy drinking increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and some kinds of stroke. The pancreas helps to regulate the body's blood sugar levels by producing insulin. The pancreas also has a role in digesting the food we eat. Long-term heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This condition is associated with severe abdominal pain and weight loss and can be fatal.

Drunk driving is no accident. There were 16,885 alcohol-related fatalities in 2005 - 39 percent of the total traffic fatalities for the year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "A motor vehicle crash is considered to be alcohol-related if at least one driver or non-occupant (such as a pedestrian or pedalcyclist) involved in the crash is determined to have had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 gram per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatality that occurs in an alcohol-related crash is considered an alcohol-related fatality. The term 'alcohol-related' does not indicate that a crash or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol." The statistics reveal that most fatal alcohol-related crashes do indeed involve drunk drivers and far fewer of these fatalities involve intoxicated pedestrians or "bicyclists and other cyclists". Nationwide in 2005, alcohol was present in 24 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes (BAC .01-.07, 4 percent; BAC .08 or greater, 20 percent). The 16,885 alcohol-related fatalities in 2005 (39% of total traffic fatalities for the year) represent a 5-percent reduction from the 17,732 alcohol related fatalities reported in 1995 (42% of the total). The 16,885 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes during 2005 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 31 minutes.

Alcoholism, besides being damaging to the drinker, can also cause suffering to the people around them. For example, spouses of alcoholics often become hurt as a result of the other's damaging or abusive tendencies while drunk. Frequently, spouses can end up dealing with someone who is not the person they originally married. Arguments can be started, words spoken which, when sober, will be regretted. However, this does not lessen the pain. It takes a great deal of courage, patience and love for a spouse to help their loved one deal with and perhaps give up their love of alcohol.

Parents often struggle with what they should say to their kids about alcohol. They also struggle with when to start the dialogue. While no parent wants their child to grow up too early, parents unfortunately cannot afford to wait to address the issue. It is best to arm children with honest answers about health, safety and the dangers of underage drinking before they have fully shaped their attitudes and opinions about underage alcohol use. That means educating kids as young as six on how to protect themselves and make informed decisions about their safety.

Over the past 20 years, modern methods of evaluating medical therapies have been increasingly applied to alcohol treatment. Alcohol treatment centers use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking alcohol and rebuild their lives. Alcohol treatment programs work for many people.But just like any chronic disease, there are varying levels of success when it comes to alcohol treatment. Some people stop drinking and remain sober on their own. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. With alcohol treatment, one thing is clear, however, the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.

If you have decided, for whatever reason, that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. To get a better picture of where you are now, so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed, perhaps the first person to talk with should be your family doctor. Sometimes admitting to yourself and others that you need help can be one of the most difficult steps to take on your road to recovery. As the The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says in it's information: Acknowledging that help is needed for an alcohol problem may not be easy. But keep in mind that the sooner a person gets help, the better are his or her chances for a successful recovery. Any reluctance you may feel about discussing your drinking with your health care professional may stem from common misconceptions about alcoholism and alcoholic people.
About the Author
Find out how to quit Abusing Alcohol Written by Ed Philips and Quit Alcohol Today.
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