While it’s estimated that two billion people worldwide consume alcohol, there’s a smaller percentage of people who become alcoholics (Comer 385). Alcoholism, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder, is the most severe form of alcohol abuse. As an alcoholic, one is unable to manage their drinking habits and also struggles with feeling as though they cannot function normally without alcohol, therefore making alcohol consumption a major part of their lives (Galbicsek). Although people might drink for reasons that include trying to relieve stress, coping with some type of loss, or even to help “overcome” anxiety, what drinkers don’t realize is that alcohol is one of the most widely used groups of depressants.
Depressants slow the activity of the central nervous system and may interfere with a person’s judgment, motor activity, and concentration (Galbicsek).
In order to be classified as having an Alcohol Abuse Disorder, the DSM V gives some different criteria. First, in the past year, a person would have had to have times when they ended up drinking more or longer than they intended, experience more than once in which they wanted to stop drinking or tried to but could not, and/or spent a lot of time drinking and getting sick after the fact.
Other criteria would be that they wanted to drink so badly they couldn’t place their train of thought on anything else. Other warning signs include alcohol causing school and/or job troubles, giving up or cutting back on activities that one was previously interested in, participating in a situation that increases your chances of getting hurt, continued drinking even after feelings of depression persisted, and realizing that you have to drink more than what you once did in order to get the effect of drinking that you desire. Finally, on the physical side of things, the DSM V states that when the effects of alcohol began to wear off someone might experience withdrawal symptoms, trouble sleeping, shakiness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, a seizure, or even sensing things that are not there (American Psychiatric Association). You must exhibit two of the previously listed symptoms in order to qualify for Alcohol Use Disorder. Beyond that, though, this disorder is organized into three categories including mild, moderate, and severe. Within each category comes different symptoms, yet all include harmful side effects (Galbicsek). One would be placed in the mild category if they had two to three symptoms listed in the DSM 5, moderate if they had four to five of the symptoms listed, and severe if they exhibited six or more of the symptoms listed.
There are many factors that have the ability to influence the development of alcoholism. From a biological standpoint, research has shown that drinking alcohol releases a flood of endorphins in the nucleus accumbens, which is linked to addictive behaviors, and the orbitofrontal cortex, which is involved in decision making (Raymond). These “feel good” chemicals are the reason why so many drinkers return to alcohol when they want a “pick me up”. Unfortunately, though, this “feel good” chemicals only last for a short while and leave you feeling depressed afterward. From a physiological standpoint, alcoholism is greatly correlated with depression. At least 30%-40% of alcoholics experience a depressive disorder (Juergens). When a depressed person turns to alcohol as their escape, a vicious cycle has been started that will be difficult to break.
There are limited ways to assess whether or not someone is an alcoholic. The most common assessment tools include self-assessments and CAGE questionnaires. Self-assessments can either be found online or even be given out by a health professional. On this self-assessment, one would find questions similar to “do you try to avoid family or close friends while you’re drinking”, “do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time” and “have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol”. Another assessment tool would be CAGE questionnaires. CAGE is an acronym that stands for cutting down, Annoyance by criticism, guilty feeling, and eye-openers. Exhibiting two to three of these symptoms would qualify someone as a potential alcoholic. Because the CAGE questions are so simple and easy to administer, this questionnaire is one of the most efficient and effective screening tools (O’Brien). Although both of these tools can be successful in determining whether or not you have Alcohol Use Disorder, it’s important that the information and results provided cannot substitute for a full evaluation that would originally be given by a health professional (2015).
Once someone has come to the realization that they’re an alcoholic, it’s critical that they start taking steps in the right direction and seek treatment. The three major treatments for alcoholism include medical, psychological, and sociocultural (2005). Medical treatment can include mood-altering drugs and sensitizing agents. Mood altering drugs will help to improve one’s mood but when ingested with alcohol, side effects associated with these antidepressants can be fatal (2005). Sensitizing agents cause someone to become sick when they ingest alcohol. When this drug is active in your system, nausea, vomiting, and sweating are all possibilities. Not only can this drug cause cardiovascular problems, but it can be associated with suicide among users as well (2005). Psychological treatment may include something such as behavioral psychotherapy. One type of behavioral technique is blood-alcohol level discrimination training. This procedure teaches alcoholics how to manage their alcohol intake. These therapies can sometimes be successful by videotaping users when they’re intoxicated and showing the users the footage when the drinker has come back to consciousness (2005). Finally, sociocultural treatment can include being a part of an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) group. Alcoholics Anonymous is a volunteer self-help organization where a group of alcoholics get together, admit their faults, and talk about what they can improve and how to overcome their addiction (2005). Even though this organization has been successful in the lives of many, some participants don’t like the fact that they are labeled as “alcoholics” and drop out because the interventions reminded them of their former alcohol problem (Sengul).
Alcoholism is an important topic of study because when one becomes more familiar with alcoholism and the negative effects it has, they might better be able to make a more educated decision on whether or not they should stay away from drinking altogether. Alcoholics experience the dangers of many physical symptoms. Some short-term symptoms include poor reflexes, lowered inhibitions, blurry vision, difficulty breathing, and restlessness (Galbicsek). Long-term health conditions caused by alcohol include brain defects, liver disease, diabetes complications, heart problems, increased risk of cancer, vision damages, and bone loss (Galbicsek). Emotionally, alcoholics may become angry, depressed, and experience anxiety. These feelings might progress into the substance abuser becoming physically and/or verbally abusive or aggressive towards others (2010). On the cognitive side, alcoholics undergo memory loss due to the destruction of brain cells, difficulty learning, poor judgment, slow reaction time, and reduced brain activity (2010). Not only does this disorder affect the alcoholic physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially, but it also destroys millions of families, social relationships, and careers (American Psychiatric Association). Medical treatment, lost productivity, and losses due to deaths from alcoholism cost society many billions of dollars annually. This disorder also plays a role in more than one-third of all suicide’s, homicides, assaults, rapes, and accidental deaths (Comer 387). Additionally, millions of children around the world have parents who suffer from this disorder which in turn leads these children into developing higher rates of low self-esteem, poor communication skills, and poor sociability (Comer 388).
Alcoholism definitely relates to what I have learned in this course. I have learned about many different disorders and what they all share in common including the criteria one has to meet to have the disorder, different perspectives and treatments there are for that particular disorder, and outcomes of the treatments. Alcoholism has played a huge role in my own personal life as well. I have family members who constantly abuse alcohol because they are trying to cope with everyday stressors. The best way you can help someone avoid being caught in this disorder would be to help them seek treatment as soon as possible. It’s important to offer helpful options to potential users because ones drinking habit can transform into a serious problem very quickly.
After researching how alcoholism negatively affects the alcoholic and those around them and after the experiences I have encountered in my own life, I can honestly say that I have made the decision to refrain from alcohol. There are too many risks associated with this drug and I don’t want any part in it. Not only did this research help me make a decision, but it gave me the knowledge to better educate my family and future children on this topic as well. Due to my research and this course, I am now better able to understand this mental illness from different perspectives.
Cite this Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol Use Disorder. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/alcohol-use-disorder/