Alcoholism: An Essay of Truth
Alcoholism is defined as "a chronic disorder marked by excessive
and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to
psychological and physical dependence or addiction"
(Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary) According to the NIAAA
(National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction), alcoholism
is considered a disease, one that is chronic. That means that it
lasts a person's lifetime, follows a predictable course, and has
symptoms. The four common symptoms include:
Craving: Having a strong urge or need to drink.
Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of
alcohol in order to get a "buzz" or get "high". Physical
dependence: Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea,
headaches, perspiration, the "shakes", and anxiety when
refraining from alcohol. Loss of control: An
inability to stop drinking at the first drink. Alcoholism is the
third greatest killer in the United States, after heart disease
and cancer. Alcoholism can affect anyone of race, creed, or
nationality. It is a health problem that attacks the young and
old, lawyers, businessmen, housewives, police officers, teachers,
journalists, and even social workers and doctors who often end up
feeling they should be able to "heal themselves.
Is AA for you? "Alcoholics Anonymous is a
fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength
and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem
and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement
for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or
fees for A.A. membership; they are self-supporting through their
own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect,
denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not
wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes
any causes. AA's primary purpose is to stay sober and help other
alcoholics achieve sobriety.
What are other treatment options? If you don't
think AA is for you, alcoholism should be treated by
professionals trained in addiction medicine. Physicians and other
health care workers are best suited to manage alcohol withdrawal
and the medical disorders associated with alcoholism. In fact,
home therapy without supervision by a trained professional may be
life threatening because of complications from alcohol withdrawal
syndrome. Usually an alcoholic will experience alcohol withdrawal
6-8 hours after cutting down or stopping alcohol consumption.
Alcohol withdrawal is treated by oral or IV hydration along with
medications that reverse the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The
most common medications used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms
are benzodiazepines. Commonly used medications in this class are
lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam, (Valium), and chlordiazepoxide
(Librium). They can be given by IV, orally, or by injection.
Also, there are medications to help to abstinate from drinking
alcohol. The classic medication is disulfiram (Antabuse). It
interferes with alcohol metabolism resulting in a metabolite that
makes the person very uncomfortable and nauseated when consuming
alcohol. The greatest problem with disulfiram is that people will
often stop taking the medication to drink alcohol. To overcome
this problem, disulfiram is available as an implantable device
that is inserted under the skin.
There are several different questionnaires one could take to find
out if they may have a problem with alcohol. The
CAGE questionnaire, for example, asks the
following 4 questions. "Yes" answers to 2 or more of these
questions indicate a high likelihood of alcoholism.
Have you felt you should Cut down on your
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your
Have you felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had to drink first thing in the morning to steady
your nerves or get rid of a hangover
The TACE questionnaire is very similar. It also
asks 4 questions. The more "yes" answers a person has to these
questions, the higher the likelihood of this person drinking
How many drinks does it Take to get you high?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your
Have you ever felt you ought to Cut down on your
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady
your nerves (Eye opener)?
If you, or anyone you know, may have a problem with alcohol, feel
free to check out www.aa.org for more information, or contact
a health care professional.
Other sites you can check out: