Alcoholism is a disease that is chronic and potentially fatal. It is characterized by dependence and addiction to alcohol. The American Medical Association (AMA) officially classified alcoholism as a disease in 1966. However, society still tends to judge it morally, as stated by Father Martin.
Different types of alcoholics include the daily drinker, who relies heavily on alcohol and consumes it every day. There are also weekend alcoholics, who excessively indulge in drinking during weekends. Lastly, there is the binge drinker.
This individual occasionally consumes a significant amount of alcohol, which is the most perilous manifestation of alcoholism as it heightens the risk of fatality due to alcohol poisoning. The origins of developing alcoholism remain a mystery to those who encounter it. Certain theories propose that genetic factors associated with stress, as well as psychological or social pressures, might contribute.
Some believe alcoholism is a learned maladaptive coping behavior, while studies suggest it may have genetic influences. If alcoholism is indeed genetic, it would be associated with the stress gene.
Stress can create a desire for alcohol, suggesting that drinking alcohol might be a detrimental coping strategy acquired from an alcoholic parent. The effects of alcohol addiction impact both the addicted person and their family, causing harm to physical health, relationships, and job performance. It can lead to conditions including liver cirrhosis, brain cell depletion, stomach cancer, depression, tremors, and memory impairment.
Having an alcoholic family member often leads to disruptions in the family dynamic, such as arguments and fights caused by their impaired functioning and drunkenness. They may also opt out of family gatherings or behave disruptively if they do attend. Additionally, it is not rare for some alcoholics to display abusive behavior towards other family members.
When a family has a member who is an alcoholic, they often face financial difficulties because a significant portion of their income is spent on buying alcohol. The children in these families are particularly affected as they experience conflicts and unjust accusations due to their parent’s drinking habits, causing them to feel guilty. As a result, the child’s emotional well-being declines and they may develop depression and withdraw from social interactions. They might stop inviting friends over or participating in social events.
Alcoholism causes numerous absences, leading to financial loss for both the employee and employer. Moreover, alcohol consumption and alcoholism contribute to a significant percentage of industrial fatalities (up to 40%) and industrial injuries (up to 47%). Additionally, alcohol hinders work productivity.
One in ten Americans is significantly affected by alcohol, resulting in higher rates of death, violence, family problems, and work absenteeism compared to other substances. Diagnosing alcoholism can be difficult for doctors since its physical effects can resemble other medical conditions. Consequently, those struggling with alcoholism frequently deny their problem and are unlikely to reveal their drinking habits without prompting from a doctor – unfortunately, most doctors do not inquire about this.