November 4, 2022 AddictionAlcohol

Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Alcoholism is a disease that centers in the body, causing brain chemistry to change. As time goes by, individuals may build tolerance and dependence on alcohol, resulting in an increase in alcohol consumption, causing damage to the body and brain. The hijacking of the body by this disease has the potential to cause problems with relationships, health, finances, and responsibilities. However, despite all these concerning issues, the disease of alcoholism makes it extremely difficult, or even impossible, for an individual to control or quit drinking.

Woman hiding her face with her hands and a glass of alcohol. Text: People with AUD need to be medically treated for cravings to stop.

Key Takeaways

Alcoholism affects millions of people, but why is it so hard to quit drinking? Here’s what you need to know:

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, reach out to Indiana Center for Recovery.

Alcoholism Explained

Alcoholism, medically referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a disease that affects the body and the brain. AUD is a chronic disease that progresses as time goes on, making the disease stronger and the problems bigger.

Alcohol is a sedative. The typical reaction to a sedative is for the body to get tired or relax. Those living with the disease of alcoholism experience an abnormal response to the sedative, causing a boost of energy and leading to irrational decision-making or dangerous behavior.

For example, when people who do not have the disease have a wine night, the sedative in the alcohol makes them tired, and they often tend to go to sleep. Those with the disease will have a drink, and that one drink has the potential to lead a person to go on a bender for days, causing them to engage in irrational and dangerous behavior.

Over time, the disease causes more trouble for not only the individual struggling with the disease but for their friends and family as well. The disease causes a devastating amount of heartache, struggle, and problems for all lives connected to the sufferer.

Despite all the issues revolving around a person’s drinking habits, they are unable to control or quit even when loved ones beg for them to stop. The disease keeps individuals from thinking clearly, so they are unable to recognize the destruction and dangers alcohol has caused them in the past when the present thought of the next drink comes into mind.

For these individuals, alcoholism seems normal because of the way their brain has been rewired.

Heavy Drinking vs. Alcoholism

Heavy drinking is not always a trait of alcoholism. For example, if a heavy drinker is asked to stop or moderate their drinking by a loved one, has ill health, a promising job opportunity, saving and budgeting, or decides on their own to quit or moderate, they are successfully able to do so.

Those living with the disease are unable to quit or control their drinking because alcohol is the only immediate relief they know that can make them instantly feel better, no matter how many times it has inflicted misery and chaos on them and those around them.

People who have alcoholism may feel inferior to others, lack self-esteem, feel helpless and hopeless, and have a lost sense of belonging and purpose. No matter how much trouble alcohol has caused them in their lives, they view it as a safety blanket to deal with those negative thoughts and emotions.

Signs Of Alcoholism

Here are some questions that can help clarify if your drinking patterns are signs of alcoholism.

If you can answer yes to some of these questions, then chances are you are most likely struggling with alcoholism.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when the body dependent on alcohol does not have any alcohol in the system. Withdrawal symptoms typically develop because people who have built a dependency on alcohol quit cold turkey. Withdrawal from alcohol is a serious matter as it can lead to seizures and death. The symptoms may occur as quickly, within eight hours from the last drink or a couple of days later, depending on the severity of alcohol dependence. Here are some symptoms you may have if you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Common symptoms typically include:

Delirium tremens are a form of severe withdrawal symptoms that include:

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must seek medical care immediately. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are fatal.

Treatment Programs

It is important to recognize the severe progression of the disease and the significance of proper treatment.

The first stage of treatment is medical detoxification. It is critical to seek medical care when detoxing, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. During medical detox, doctors provide medication to prevent seizures and keep their patients comfortable, minimizing body pains and sickness. After the detox stage, once all the alcohol is out of the system, cravings are significantly minimized.

During the second stage, individuals can attend a residential inpatient program where they are housed at a treatment facility. When the second stage is completed, individuals graduate to the final stage, outpatient treatment. In this stage, individuals typically move to a sober living home aided by a case manager who is assigned to them. During both programs, patients are provided with psychiatrists, private therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and family therapy, as well as holistic programs such as art, yoga, or music.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Involvement in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a significant factor in the recovery of people who live with the disease of alcoholism. According to the National Library of Medicine, studies show AA plays a critical role in achieving abstinence from alcohol and overall well-being correlating with hope and meaning in life for AA members. Members gain sober support, tools for sobriety, and a new outlook and perspective on the joys of living even in rough times.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is alcoholism a disease?

Yes, alcoholism is a disease that is classified as both a physical and mental disease. People struggling with this disease are unable to control or quit drinking, no matter the issues that arise from the drinking habits. Left untreated, it can cause severe problems in health, relationships, and finances. Alcoholism can even be fatal.

What kinds of health issues does alcoholism cause?

Alcoholism can cause severe health issues. Issues that may result from alcoholism may be high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, kidney disease, digestive problems, brain disease, cancer, and death.