Alcoholism is a chronic condition that results from the dependency on alcohol you develop. People diagnosed with this condition are unable to control how much and how often they drink, even though this may affect their family relationships, health and career, so the problem is considered to be both physical and psychological.
The most typical signs of alcoholism include drinking in secret or alone, feeling a compulsion to drink, drinking to feel normal, losing interest in activities that used to bring pleasure, feeling irritable when it’s impossible to get alcohol, keeping alcohol in a lot of places to access it at any time, developing tolerance to the effects of alcohol (when you need to drink more and more to feel the effects), and suffering from typical withdrawal symptoms if you do not drink for some time (sweating, nausea and shaking).
Alcoholism is a disease that can be treated with the help of taking medications, getting counseling and making use of various therapies aimed at helping the person to get rid of psychological dependence.
The first step in treating alcoholism is actually establishing the fact there is a problem. The most important thing is for the patient to realize they have a problem that requires serious treatment.
There is plenty of information online about how alcoholism can be diagnosed – and even self-examination questions that you can answer if you suspect a problem. Answering positively to some of these questions may mean the problem is present and it is advised to contact a health care professional in order to receive counseling.
The biggest problem in the treatment of alcoholism is denial – people suffering from it are likely to deny the problem, claiming their drinking is social in nature. It may take a lot of time and persuasion on the part of family and friends for the person to recognize the problem and seek medical help. The disease can develop gradually, and slowly the balance of certain chemicals in your brain is altered.
Alcohol is known to raise the levels of dopamine in the brain – this chemical is associated with the feeling of pleasure. Gradually alcohol becomes a way to restore good feelings or avoid negative ones and drinking becomes a necessity. There are some factors that are believed to make the person more likely to drink in excess and develop alcoholism.
Social and cultural factors, emotional state, psychological factors and genetics are among them. There are also risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing alcoholism (although drinking any amounts of alcohol is a risk factors by itself).
These include sex (men more likely to abuse alcohol), age (younger people are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol), family history and emotional disorders (depression and anxiety that may require the person to drink to feel better and calm down).
Drinking in excess besides causing problems in interpersonal relationships may have physical consequences, including liver disorders (cirrhosis), gastrointestinal and metabolic problems, diabetes complications, cardiovascular problems, birth defects, sexual dysfunction, bone loss and a lot of other states and conditions.
The treatment for alcoholism can vary and depend on whether you have lost all the control over your drinking – if this is not the case you may start by drinking less, although if you have already developed dependency this may be inefficient. The effects of drugs used to treat alcoholism are based on aversion therapy, when drinking alcohol is associated with a highly-unpleasant response of your body – nausea and vomiting caused by taking a certain medication.
Zofran (ondansetron), Campral (acamprosate), Antabuse (disulfiram), Vivitrol (naltrexone), Zofran ODT (ondansetron), and Revia (naltrexone) are the most commonly prescribed remedies, and Antabuse is the most effective one.
Antabuse works in the same way described above – by causing symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, nausea and flushing, and in some cases more serious ones. The severe reactions are likely to make the person taking Antabuse avoid drinking.
Taking Antabuse or any other medications of the kind is of course not the cure – but it can remove the compulsion to drink, which is a good start for anyone unable to stop without external help.
However, simply taking Antabuse and avoiding drinking is not that efficient – counseling will also help you to learn how to cope with stress and traumatic events and live without alcohol, developing control of your thoughts and actions.
Once you manage to get rid of the problem, there are aftercare programs that will keep you from going back to drinking and cope with the lifestyle changes you had to apply.