Sunday, January 4, 2015

Alcoholism: a disease which touches so many

I have a love-hate relationship with alcohol. I am not a big drinker. I do enjoy a rare cocktail. My favorite drink is Rum and Coke but I don’t seek out the alcohol and often times I will turn down a drink. I am a child of alcoholics. My mom is a recovering alcohol who has seen her life turned upside down because of her drinking. She has come a long way and is currently working to help others end their alcoholism. My dad has not been able to end his drinking. Despite his consistent reassurances that he has, I know when someone is drunk by their voice. Because of this, we do not have a relationship. Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease with involves problems controlling drinking, the preoccupation with alcohol and the continued use of alcohol despite health issues. Alcoholism isn’t just a drinking problem. It becomes a life or death problem.

The symptoms of alcoholism are:

  • Unable to control amount of alcohol. An alcoholic can’t have just one beer or one glass of wine. They will drink until the whole case or bottle is gone and often without realizing that they have drank so much. 
  • Strong need to drink. This need is constant and irresistible urge. Thoughts of getting a drink consume everyday activities and the person will not have relief until he or she has a drink in the hand. 
  • Develop tolerance which leads to the need of more alcohol to feel the same effect.
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking (i.e. nausea, sweating, and shaking)
  • Experience blackouts
  • Keeps alcohol in unusual places (i.e. in the bathroom, in the car, or at work)
  • Legal problems, relationship issues, unemployment or financial issues due to drinking
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you once loved. 

The causes of alcoholism have been researched and debated. The consensus is that alcoholism has genetic, psychological, social and environment components. It makes sense that someone who has parents and even grandparents who were alcoholics can be predisposed.  Is it a solely genetic or a combinations of the components? I think alcoholism a mixture of the social and environment components with interaction with the mental state of an individual. The risk factors of alcoholism are: 1) steady drinking overtime due to stress or an escape mechanism, 2) age at which someone begins drinking. The earlier someone starts, the higher the risk of alcoholism, 3) family history, and 4) social and cultural factors, if drinking is a part of parties and other gatherings, an individual would be more likely to drink.

The health complications from alcoholism are widespread. The most common health issue is the development of various liver aliments such as liver disease, cirrhosis and fatty liver. Alcoholism also can lead to digestive problems such as gastritis and pancreatitis. It can contribute to various heart ailments such as enlarged heart, heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke. There are hosts of other complications that alcohol can contribute to: diabetes complications (i.e. hypoglycemia), sexual and reproductive issues (erectile dysfunction in men and menstruation issue in women), eye problems, birth defects (i.e. mental retardation, organ defects, facial malformations, and impaired growth), neurological complications (i.e. dementia and short term memory loss), weakened immune system and a higher risk of cancer. Of course, death. Alcohol related deaths are the third leading cause in the U.S. In 2012, 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related.

For me, alcohol isn’t worth it. The host of health and social problems that can arise is just not worth the alcohol. I suppose it is easy for me to avoid alcohol for various reasons: 1) majority of alcohol is not gluten-free (although manufacturers are now coming out with gluten-free options, 2) I simply don’t like how alcohol tastes or how it makes me feel and 3) alcohol is very expensive. I understand that for some people, the pull of alcohol is often too great. If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol, there are countless of organizations which can help. Alcoholics Anonymous ( is the most well-known. Look for your local organizations for more information and help. The first step is begins with you.