Alcoholism causes remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, despite decades of research. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes one person to descend into problem drinking and another to abstain from alcohol or only drink socially. The latest research, however, has pointed toward a combination of genetics and environment. Of course, if you notice yourself or a loved one drinking more than is healthy, you’re probably less concerned with causes and more concerned with solutions. Fortunately, a toll-free national helpline is available at 1-800-861-9454 to connect alcoholics and their loved ones with the resources to battle though the addiction.
As identified by medical professionals and counselors, several interrelated risk factors set one up for problems with alcohol. These include:
- Drinking at an early age
- Male gender
- Long-term, steady drinking that slowly increases
- Depression or anxiety
- Family history of problem drinking
- Social and cultural acceptance of drinking
Alcohol Abuse and Full-Blown Alcoholism
Alcoholism causes remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, despite decades of research.”It’s important to make a distinction between alcohol abuse and full-blown alcoholism. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, alcohol abuse consists of a failure to meet responsibilities because of drinking, consuming alcohol at inappropriate times, legal problems resulting from alcohol use, or problems in personal relationships directly related to alcohol. Alcoholism includes a pattern of these consequences that accelerate with time, leading to a loss of control on the part of the alcoholic.
In the past, society viewed alcoholics as degenerate, morally flawed individuals, unworthy of compassion or medical intervention. Thankfully, that derogatory stereotype has lost its influence. Doctors now understand that alcoholism is a disease, not a character defect, and have developed treatment plans with this new perspective in mind. Guilt and anger are rarely effective motivators for change. Treatments that attack the disease and its potential causes rather than the patient are light years more successful.
Increasingly, scientists are coming to recognize that genetics and family history may play a powerful role in determining who is at greatest risk of developing alcoholism. Studying family medical histories has revealed that the disease does seem to run in families. While geneticists hunt for a specific gene or genes that may account for alcoholic tendencies, other clinicians have postulated that genetics may combine with family environment to predispose a person to the disease. The essential thing to remember here is that genetics and family may only provide a predisposition to drink. They do not equate to a destiny.
Peer Pressure and Alcohol
“Alcoholism is a disease, not a character defect.”Learned behavior, whether picked up from family members or one’s peer group, could be just as influential in pushing someone toward a problem with alcohol. If you typically surround yourself with people who drink heavily, you’re very likely to mimic the habit. The college years are almost synonymous with binge drinking, but many young adults discover too late that their partying lifestyle has evolved into something resembling an addiction. For the problem drinker, alcohol may become necessary to navigate social situations, stressful encounters, or even the rigors of day-to-day life. How and why the balance tips from drinking too much to acute alcoholism is unclear, and probably is different for each individual.
The human body has remarkable powers of self-healing. Even the effects of extended alcohol abuse can largely be overcome. The greatest dangers for continuing alcoholics are a heightened cancer risk, increased incidence of heart disease, and impairment of cognitive function and memory. Digestive problems and liver disease are likewise symptoms of chronic alcohol abuse. These dangers alone should be a strong argument for seeking professional help to get healthy.
Alcoholism A Disease
Alcoholism is a chronic, lifelong disease. However, modern treatment can free an addict from the grips of his disease and return him to a normal, sober lifestyle. The first and arguably most important step in dealing with alcoholism is admitting that a problem exists. Alcoholics often spend months or years in denial, as the consequences of their addiction gradually accumulate. Eventually, a breaking point is reached. Sometimes the alcoholic will come to an epiphany, while in other cases a family member or friend will be the catalyst for a change. No matter how it happens, once the problem is acknowledged, the recovery process has already begun.
The most effective treatment methods for alcoholism begin and end with sustained, targeted therapy sessions, be they group therapy or individual, cognitive-behavioral therapy. For severe alcoholics, prescription medications like Antabuse may be necessary to discourage relapse. Others may benefit from anti-anxiety medications during the withdrawal process. The physical symptoms of withdrawal are in reality quite brief. The long-term challenge lies in rebuilding one’s confidence and sense of self. That’s where a strong support network comes into play. Alcoholics need continuing support in the form of therapy sessions, positive social interactions, and, in some cases, medication for the treatment of mental disorders like depression.
While it’s true that alcoholism causes run the gamut from genetics to environment and probably everything in between, effective and appropriate treatment is out there for everyone. No matter how profoundly ill you or a loved one may be today, calling 1-800-861-9454 is a significant first step in the right direction.