Now ask any recovering alcoholic if they have a disease and without a moments hesitation they will tell you yes.
There is much debate amongst people if alcoholism is a disease or not. It doesn’t fit the mould of a disease and most of the time we deny it exists.
Even though alcoholism has been recognized by the medical community as a chronic, progressive and even fatal disease, those who suffer from it sometimes refuse to admit they have a disease.
Even though alcoholism has some of the same characteristics of diseases. Alcoholism has a predictable course just like any other disease and comes with recognized symptoms also.
So what is alcoholism?
- An Obsession
The most simple way to put it is that alcoholism is a mental obsession that causes a physical compulsion to drink alcohol. A alcoholic has no control over his urge to drink and the only way to stop that urge is to take a drink.
Alcoholism also progresses overtime. You don’t start out automatically drinking 10 drinks a day, instead you start off with maybe 2 drinks, and then 2 becomes 3 drinks and so on. This happens slowly sometimes over the course of a few years and more often than not, you will never even realize when alcohol has taken over your life.
Many people are hesitant to call alcoholism a disease because the cause of the disease is alcohol dependence. It is not a germ or anything invades your body. Some could argue that alcohol is a toxin that enters your body and causes the disease. Not everyone buys that though.
To some of us alcoholism might just be an excuse to drink.
However the medical field feels differently. Some doctors have begun to refer to alcoholism as “alcohol dependence syndrome”.
Many also state that it is a progressive disease and moves through stages.
- There is an early stage, which is when it might take only one or two drinks to get the cravings to stop.
- As it moves into the middle stage it takes more drinks to stop the cravings. Alcohol begins to have more control in the middle stages of alcoholism.
- Finally in end stage alcoholism, an alcoholic has no control over his or her own life. Alcohol is calling the shots. Most alcoholics do not even know that they lost control as time goes on. This is why denial is a symptom that almost all alcoholics suffer from.
Doctors can diagnose alcoholism after a full exam that includes a behavioral evaluation and a medical evaluation.
- A behavioral evaluation will look at your history, drinking patterns and even environmental issues like your stress level to determine what your alcohol use is.
- A medical evaluation is when your doctor will look for physical symptoms of alcohol dependence. You might be submitted to tests to see if there is any neurological damage or any damage done to your organs.
Just as with many diseases, alcoholism can be treated and managed but there is no cure for it. You can not say you were an alcoholic but rather you are a recovering alcoholic.
by Jeff Stevens
For more information on how Alcoholics Anonymous helps recovering alcoholics a popular website that contains information and advice for dealing with alcoholism including information on what motivates teenage alcohol abuse.