Alcohol addiction differs from alcohol abuse significantly. Alcohol abuse
precedes alcohol addiction, in that heavy alcohol consumption may develop into an addiction. Alcohol abuse may result in failure to fulfill obligations, legal problems, and erratic emotional states. Recurrence of these symptoms are a good indicator of an alcoholism. As the abuse turns into addiction, one may experience a preoccupation with alcohol, heightened tolerance, and increasingly harsh withdrawal symptoms after heavy drinking.
Alcohol addiction is a large problem with people of all ages, but many alcoholics begin their drinking in their early teens. Since the teen brain is still growing, alcohol abuse can influence how it learns to function. Frequent alcohol abuse changes the brain's receptors, and the drive to seek pleasure is altered. As the development of the brain is altered, teenagers may find that alcohol is the sole way to achieve pleasure, many times resulting in addiction.
Alcohol addiction is medically diagnosed as a disease which results in the frequent use of alcohol, despite the negative consequences it has on a person's life. Many people also refer to alcoholism as a compulsive preoccupation with alcohol and the inability to recognize the negative effects it has on their life. Alcohol abuse causes over 100,000 deaths every year in the United States and Canada. It is the leading cause of death in teenagers due to alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.
It is often apparent that a person suffers from alcoholism when both their mental and physical health suffers as a direct result of their drinking. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to engage in sexually risky behavior, experiment with other illegal drugs, experience a decrease in job and scholastic performance and use tobacco products
. Long term heavy drinking is also extremely difficult on a person's physical health. It has been known to damage the liver, nervous system, heart and the brain. It also contributes to high blood pressure, sexual problems, cancer, stomach problems and osteoporosis. Alcoholism often causes severe social consequences on a person's life. Being drunk or hung over at work frequently results in termination from a job, leaving a person in severe financial trouble. Domestic violence, marital conflict and isolation from friends and family are common results of alcohol abuse. Drinking patterns are not the same for every alcoholic. While some people get drunk every day, others binge drink at specific times depending on their emotional state.
Although we do not know the specific reason this disease develops, we are aware of several contributing factors. Genetic predisposition, environment, and mental health are the leading risk factors for developing this disease. Common symptoms of an alcohol problem include blackouts, a change in personality, work and family problems, legal trouble and a lack of interest in activities that were once a priority.
Alcohol detoxification is significantly more risky than other drugs. It is the only drug that a person can die from as a direct result of withdrawal. Generally, a medical detox center
is needed to discontinue heavy drinking. A sudden discontinuation of alcohol consumption can often induce a condition known as delirium tremens. Delirium Tremens occur as a result of a lack of alcohol and GABA in the system, causing synapses in the body to fire with no control. Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- heart failure
Alcohol and drug abuse is often used to medicate and numb the pain of an emotional issue. It is common for an alcoholic to have a dual diagnosis of depression, perpetuating the drug abuse even further. Although alcoholism is a terrible and often debilitating disease, effective drug addiction treatment
is available. Alcohol rehabilitation centers
, drug treatment centers
, twelve step meetings, support groups and individual therapy are just a few of the treatments options offered to those suffering from this disease. Once a person decides they are ready for help, an immense amount of support can be easily found in most communities.