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Alcoholism: what are the causes, risks and cures?

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Alcoholism: what are the causes, risks and cures?
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Alcohol is consumed by 75% of the population.  However there are different ways to drink alcohol whether it’s an occasional glass, drinking in moderation or in excessive quantities.  However sometimes after excessively consuming alcohol people can become dependent, “succumbing to alcoholism”.  Alcohol addiction tends to affect more men than women.  However this taboo and often misunderstood issue is more common than we like to believe. Read on to find out more about alcoholism:  the causes, risks and ways to overcome this vicious addiction. 

What causes alcoholism?

In reality the exact causes of alcoholism are unknown.  However, in terms of becoming addicted to alcohol there does appear to be some explanations.  Hereditary links is often discussed in alcohol addiction.  According to several studies, people who have a family member who is or, who was an alcoholic are more at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol themselves.

In addition, every reacts differently to alcohol.  Each body is different and can withstand the effects of alcohol better or worse than others.  Therefore a person who needs to drink excessive amounts of alcohol before feeling the effects will be more at risk of developing an alcohol dependence.

There are also many psychological factors which could explain problems linked with alcohol, such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety problems.  Loneliness, social isolation or poverty can also be considered as possible explanations.

Lastly, it is important to emphasise that alcohol is a drug.  After drinking alcohol you can often feel a pleasant effect.  Therefore people may start to drink alcohol for enjoyment as they are looking to feel better. However regularly consuming alcohol produces a real addiction.  The body adapts gradually to the amount of alcohol we consume meaning that it starts to need more if you want to feel the same affects.  The body becomes more tolerant and so the consumption of alcohol becomes more regular.

What are the risks linked with alcoholism?

Many people can enjoy the moderate consumption of alcohol. It can reduce your brain activity while also making you become more relaxed.  These feelings could perhaps be a welcome change from daily life.  However drinking alcohol regularly and in large quantities can really poison your body and your brain.  This could result in vomiting, changes to your usual behaviour, dehydration, changes to your central nervous system and bring on sore heads.  Alcohol can also prevent your respiratory or cardio functions from working properly which can in severe cases result in death.

It is also strongly discouraged to consume alcohol on an empty stomach because of the risk of hypoglycemia. Drinking alcohol causes a sudden drop in blood sugar levels which can be very dangerous.

Alcohol can also be a risk for people who are not alcoholics. People who are deeply asleep after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can choke on alcohol-induced vomiting, which is inhaled into their lungs.

Alcoholism leads to many illnesses

The excessive consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can lead to many diseases which for some can be very serious while for others are fatal:

  • Liver diseases (cirrhosis)
  • Diabetes
  • Arterial hypertension (raised blood pressure)
  • Arrhythmias (an abnormal heart rhythm, which can cause sudden death)
  • Stomach ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Loss of sensations (especially in the hands and feet)
  • Beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency)
  • Brain damage
  • Heart lesions

The excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to many serious diseases which can develop if alcoholism is not treated properly.

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How to diagnose alcoholism

In some cases, people who are suffering from alcoholism are able to realise that they are excessively consuming alcohol and that it is dangerous for their health.  As soon as somebody feels guilty about the amount of alcohol they drink, there is a strong chance that the person is suffering from alcoholism. It is possible to decipher an addiction to alcohol if you are aware of any of the following signs:

  • Drinking alcohol in the morning so that you can start your day
  • Hiding bottles of alcohol in your house or at work
  • Feeling annoyed when someone makes a comment about how much alcohol you have drunk
  • Drinking alone or hiding the fact that you have been drinking
  • Drinking alcohol in places where it is not accepted (at work for example)
  • When you are no longer interested by any other activity other than drinking alcohol
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at social reunions (with friends and with family)

However some people who display theses symptoms live in total denial and are completely unaware of their illness.

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Treating alcoholism

When treating alcoholism definitively it is important to never drink another drop of alcohol.  This can be extremely difficult the first time and can cause hallucinations and behaviour problems.  However, it is important to never give up as even one glass can set you off again.

Alcoholics who want to treat their illness should be supported by their family in their attempts to cure themselves. Family and friends could be the main reason why they want to stop their addiction to alcohol. In certain instances, it is only after a family intervention that alcoholics are aware of their issue.  In order to get rid of the addiction for good, it is important to also have medical advice who can suggest an adapted treatment

Alcoholic Anonymous meetings can also be a big help for some people.  This group involves a program of 12 sessions which allow many people who are alcoholics get rid of their addiction for good.

It is also possible to cure alcoholism with adapted medical treatments which can help varying types of addiction.  In any case, making an appointment with a specialist is crucial in order to choose the best solution.

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