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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

facts about alcoholism and alcohol abuse

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that women have no more than 1 drink per day and men no more than 2 drinks per day. One drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor.

Alcoholism is a major social, economic, and public health problem.

Although the use of alcohol brings with it a number of pleasures, alcohol increases the risk of a wide range of social harms, generally in adose dependent manner; the higher the alcohol consumption, the greater the risk.

People who abuse or are dependent on alcohol are more likely to be unemployed, involved in domestic violence, and have problems with the law (such as drinking and driving).

Harms done by someone else’s drinking range from social nuisances such as being kept awake at night through more serious consequences such as marital harm, child abuse, crime, violence and homicide.

Many of the harms caused by alcohol are borne by people other than the drinker responsible. This includes 60,000 underweight births, as well as 16% of child abuse and neglect, and 5-9 million children in families adversely affected by alcohol in the EU alone.

Alcohol is involved in more than half of all accidental deaths and almost half of all traffic deaths in the US.
A high percentage of suicides involve the use of alcohol, along with other substances.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Alcoholism occurs when a person shows signs of physical addiction to alcohol, such as tolerance and withdrawal and, continues to drink, despite problems with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or job responsibilities.
Alcohol may come to dominate the person's life and relationships.

In alcohol abuse, a person's drinking leads to problems, but not physical addiction.


There is no known cause of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The reason why some people drink in a responsible manner and never lose control of their lives while others are unable to control their drinking is not clear.

Research suggests that certain genes may increase the risk of alcoholism, but which genes and how they work are not known.

Fact remains. Some people are able to gain control over their alcohol abuse before it progresses to dependence, while others are not. No one knows which heavy drinkers will be able to regain control and which will not, but the amount of alcohol one drinks can influence the likelihood of becoming dependent.

Several other risk factors for alcohol abuse and dependence have been identified. For example, a person who has an alcoholic parent is more likely to become an alcoholic than a person without alcoholism in the immediate family.

Other people who may be more likely to abuse alcohol or become dependent include:

•Men who have 15 or more drinks a week

•Women who have 12 or more drinks a week

•Anyone who has five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week

•Those who are under peer pressure, especially teens and college-aged students

•Have depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia

•Have easy access to alcohol

•Have low self-esteem or problems with relationships

•Live a stressful lifestyle

•Live in a culture where there is high social acceptance of alcohol use

The prevalence of alcohol intake and related problems is rising. Data indicate that about 15% of people in the United States are problem drinkers, and about 5% to 10% of male drinkers and 3% to 5% of female drinkers could be diagnosed as alcohol dependent. It is also estimated that 23 million Europeans (5% of men, 1% of women) are dependent on alcohol in any one year.


•Alcohol-related illnesses

•A need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get drunk or achieve the desired effect (tolerance)

•Memory lapses (blackouts) after heavy drinking

•Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped

•Continuing to drink, even when health, work, or family are being harmed

•Drinking alone

•Episodes of violence when drinking

•Hostility when confronted about drinking

•Lack of control over drinking -- being unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake

•Making excuses to drink

•Missing work or school, or a decrease in performance

•No longer taking part in activities because of alcohol

•Need for daily or regular alcohol use to function

•Neglecting to eat

•Not caring for physical appearance

•Secretive behavior to hide alcohol use

•Shaking in the morning

Alcohol-related illnesses

Apart from being a drug of dependence, alcohol is a cause of some 60 different types of diseases and conditions, including injuries, mental and behavioural disorders, gastrointestinal conditions, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, immunological disorders, lung diseases, skeletal and muscular diseases, reproductive disorders and pre-natal harm, including an increased risk of prematurity and low birth weight.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects. The most serious is fetal alcohol syndrome, which may lead to mental retardation and behavior problems. A milder form of the condition that can still cause lifelong problems is called fetal alcohol affects.
For most conditions, alcohol increases the risk in a dose dependent manner, with the higher the alcohol consumption, the greater the risk.

Alcohol-related illnesses include:

◦Heart muscle damage

◦High blood pressure


◦Problems getting an erection (in men)

◦Stopping of the period (menstruation) in women

◦Brain degeneration and dementia

◦Depression and suicide

◦Nerve damage

◦Severe memory loss

◦Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

•Cancers of the larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon

•Delirium tremens (DT's)

•Digestive tract disorders:

◦Esophageal bleeding

◦Liver disease (alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver)


◦Poor nutrition because vitamins aren't absorbed properly


Many people with alcohol problems don't recognize when their drinking gets out of hand. In the past, treatment providers believed that alcoholics should be confronted about their drinking problems. Now research has shown that compassion and empathy are more effective.

The ideal approach is to help people realize how much their alcohol use is harming their life, and the lives of those around them. They need help to realise that they can aim for a personal goal of leading a more fulfilling and sober life.

Studies find that more people enter treatment if their family members or employers are honest with them about their concerns, and try to help them see that drinking is preventing them from reaching their goals.

Some problem drinkers may be successful with simply reducing the amount they drink (moderation). If moderation succeeds, the problem is solved. If not, the person should try to achieve abstinence.

Only 15% of people with alcohol dependence seek treatment for this disease. Drinking again after treatment is common, so it is important to maintain support systems in order to cope with any slips and ensure that they don't turn into complete reversals.

Total abstinence and avoiding high-risk situations where alcohol is present are the ideal goals for people with alcoholism. A strong social network and family support are very important factors in achieving this.

Treatment programs have varying success rates, but many people with alcohol dependence are able to maintain abstinence.

Patients who achieve total abstinence have better survival rates, mental health, and marriages. They are also more responsible parents and employees than people who continue to drink or relapse.

Support groups

Support groups are available to help people who are dealing with alcoholism.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help group of recovering alcoholics that offers emotional support and a model of abstinence for people recovering from alcohol dependence. There are local chapters all over the world

Because alcoholism can also affect those around the person with the alcohol problem, family members often need counseling. Al-Anon is a support group for spouses and others who are affected by someone else's alcoholism.
Alateen provides support for teenage children of alcoholics.

If you don't like the 12-step approach, there are several other support groups available. It is important to know about these other groups because, in the past, people who did not find AA helpful or were troubled by its involvement of a "Higher Power" had no alternatives.

SMART recovery uses cognitive methods to help people with alcoholism recover.
LifeRing recovery and SOS are two other nonreligious programs.
Women for Sobriety is a self-help group just for women. Many women with alcohol problems have different concerns than men.
Moderation Management is a program for problem drinkers who want to moderate their drinking. It recommends abstinence for people who fail at moderation.

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