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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alcoholism and excessive alcohol use causes somewhere around 88,000 deaths each year making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Alcoholism not only affects the person addicted, there are also family consequences, an economic burden and a global burden.
There are both environmental factors (social, cultural, and behavioral influences) and genetics associated with the disease of alcoholism with about half the risk attributed to each. In addition, a person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves.
As with all addiction problems, despite any consequences a person who has a problem with either alcoholism or drugs may suffer, they will generally continue to use their drug of choice. Half-hearted attempts to stop or cut back their use are usually unsuccessful.
The good news is that the gradual increase in awareness both culturally and in the medical field has slowly chipped away at the stigma attached to alcoholism. With more and more treatment centers opening up, the number of certified specialists graduating colleges and recovering alcoholics in the thousands becoming more vocal and less “anonymous”…help is here.
How to define alcoholism has changed even in the last decade alone, however, since humans first started crushing grapes, people have been drinking too much!
So when does drinking too much become alcoholism?
Medically speaking, alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness and disease.
The most recent revision of the diagnostic manual for mental disorders (the DSM-5) updated the criteria commonly used to diagnose either an alcohol disorder (alcoholism) or a substance use disorder. According to the DSM-5, a “substance use disorder describes a problematic pattern of using alcohol or another substance that results in impairment in daily life or noticeable distress.”
According to the diagnostic manuals, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions exist:
A US study has estimated that about 30% of Americans report having some sort of an alcohol disorder at some time in their lives. Alcoholism, alcohol abuse and dependence often have serious consequences like car crashes, domestic violence and even birth defects. Here a few other lesser known but very important statistics to be aware of:
There is a movement of awareness forming that I am so fortunate to be a part of. The statistically low treatment rates given the availability of effective treatments in the U.S. indicates the need for vigorous education efforts for the general public.
Typically, treatment options for alcoholism include a combination of inpatient and outpatient programs, counseling (psychotherapy), self-help groups, paired with individual sponsors, and sometimes even medication.
The basic principles of treatment include the following:
Many of these “coexisting psychiatric disorders” have excellent medical treatments, which must be utilized.
Successful recovery really is an art form; it’s taking one thing, one story and turning it into something else. People don’t get sober just to keep living the exact same way they always lived – just without alcohol and drugs. People face alcoholism head on to get to live better, to dream and then work towards achieving those dreams, to enter into full, satisfying relationships, to live productive lives and to be happy human beings of service.
If you think you may be suffering with the disease of alcoholism, you are not alone.