Basics of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is quietly and deceptively the world’s largest substance abuse and addiction problem. Its inclusion in cultural activities around the world cloaks the problems created by consumption of beer, wine, spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs and many other forms of the drug. Weddings, funerals, New Year’s Eve, twenty-first birthdays, sporting events, Friday nights after a long week of physical labor – in many cultures, these events seems to demand alcohol consumption.

Alcoholic Depressed Shaken DisturbedIf you ask a drinker if he (or she) thinks that this substance is even a drug, many will say no. While definitions of “drug” vary, most dictionaries [1] include the facts that a drug affects a body’s functioning or structure and the mind. It can be harmful and addictive, and attempts to discontinue use of the substance result in specific uncomfortable reactions like sweating, vomiting and so on. Alcohol fits all these criteria. It is an addictive, damaging drug.

What is Alcoholism?

An alcoholic is a person who has lost control of his ability to control his drinking. He drinks despite the harm he sees occurring in his life. His relationships suffer, his job performance drops, he may lose one or several jobs. His children are increasingly neglected and may suffer abuse.

The alcoholic himself (or herself) rapidly loses self-esteem as the damage mounts and he still continues drinking. His integrity declines every time he reaches for more alcohol instead of addressing the damage he is creating. But the alcohol consumption obliterates the pain and loss along with any other negative feelings he may have about his loved ones or other problems.

Worsening Stages of Alcoholism

This chain reaction of negative effects can rapidly deepen the problem, locking the person in his addiction. More alcohol seems to make the pain and problems go away, and so the person sees alcohol as a desirable solution. The body contributes a physical dependence to the drug, locking the person in the pattern of alcohol consumption even more.

Of course, there is also physical damage suffered by the alcoholic. Over time, alcohol is very destructive to the liver and pancreas and contributes to higher rates of heart disease and cancer as well. Get help now. Call 800-468-6933

Alcoholism Statistics

In the US, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used in the medical profession estimates that 10% of the US population suffers from alcoholism. Asians suffer at generally lower rates. Russians experience high rates of problem drinking and alcoholism but as with countries like Ireland and Australia [2], drinking is so much part of the culture that even those who suffer serious damage usually do not seek treatment.

The costs of alcoholism are extensive. In Europe [3],the cost of alcoholism is estimated to be more than 125 billion Euros each year. In the US, more than 1,800 college students lose their lives each year due to alcohol abuse and more than half a million are injured. Alcoholism also contributes to higher levels of suicide, according to a Swedish study [4]. Get help now. Call 800-468-6933

Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates [5] that more than two million lives are lost to alcohol abuse each year. There is a fairly endless list of statistics that could be cited that prove that alcoholism results in damage, injury, loss, pain and even death [6]. But in fact, one really only needs to ask the spouse, children, co-workers, employers, family members or close friends of an alcoholic to find the real story. They experience the problems, pain and loss right along with the alcoholic.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Genetic Roots of AlcoholismScience searches for physical indicators for alcoholism so they can predict future problems and preemptively screen and treat individuals who might develop the problem later in life. There are no conclusive tests for alcoholism , however [7].

The US National Institutes of Health states that some ethnic lines process alcohol more poorly than others, like those of Asian descent. Some Asians are more likely to suffer adverse symptoms like nausea and rapid heartbeat when they drink because of genetic factors that alter the effect that alcohol has on their bodies.

But two Asians with the same genetic background may have completely different inclinations toward drinking, meaning that genetics does not really provide an answer. Thus even with identical twins, one could become an alcoholic and the other might have no tendency to drink. There is much more to the answer of alcoholism. Get help now. Call 800-468-6933

Forms of Treatment for Alcoholism

If one searches for treatment modalities for alcoholism, it may seem that there are as many methods of treatment as there are stars in the sky. Some methods are very widespread, like Alcoholics Anonymous which has tens of thousands of meeting groups located around the world. In the US alone, there are more than 35,000 of these groups [8].

There are also treatment centers that employ wilderness excursions, interactions with animals, education, rehabilitation of the ability to work, meditation, holistic and alternative health treatments, psychiatric treatment, involvement in a community of other people recovering from addiction, hypnosis, religion and an almost endless list of other modalities.

Do Drug Treatments Really Help With Alcoholism?

There are several drug treatment options for alcoholism recovery. Some are offbeat and touted only by a few individuals who claim success using this modality. Into this category falls the use of the Amazon hallucinogen ibogaine. Use of this drug for addiction treatment is illegal in the US and many other countries but some people travel to South America, Mexico or other countries for this treatment.

A Norwegian study even claimed that the hallucinogenic drug LSD might be able to be used to break a person’s pattern of alcohol addiction [9].

Success with alcoholism treatment varies so greatly that pharmaceutical solutions are constantly being sought to improve treatment rates. Alcoholics may be given the drug disulfram, brand-named Antabuse. This drug blocks the body’s ability to process alcohol normally, instead turning it into a toxic substance that makes the person violently ill. A person must reliably take the drug for it to help curb their impulse to drink. It is significant that the drug does not actually affect cravings – the alcoholic simply knows that he will get ill if he drinks and so must deal with cravings some other way. Get help now. Call 800-468-6933

Naltrexone is administered in some alcohol treatment programs. It is more usually given to opiate addicts as part of their treatment. If the opiate addict abuses heroin or a prescription opiate like hydrocodone, naltrexone is supposed to block the intoxicating effects of the drug. With alcoholics, the drug is thought to help reduce cravings.

There is also the drug acamprosate that is given to some people who want to recover from alcoholism. The reasons given for prescribing acamprosate are unusually vague but it is noted that this drug may result in an increased desire to harm or kill oneself [10].

Every treatment method seems to have strong advocates. The only accurate measure of success is, however, the percentage of people who remain sober after the treatment program is over. For recovery to occur, several changes need to take place:

  • The underlying personal, moral or functional weaknesses must be made strong.
  • The damage done by alcoholism must be thoroughly repaired or the person in recovery will be plagued by all the remnants of his alcohol abuse.
  • Relationships must be restored.
  • Personal integrity and self-respect must be rebuilt.
  • Guilt over the waste of years of one’s life, many thousands of dollars and the harm done to others must be truly alleviated.
  • The body itself must be supported while it heals from the constant saturation of alcohol. A detoxification process that refreshes the body as it flushes old alcohol residues out is of great value in a recovery.

When alcohol rehab addresses these fundamental ways that alcohol addiction traps a person, then sobriety can be lasting. Without an effective way of addressing these factors, sobriety may last no longer than the recovery program.


Many millions of people suffer untold loss and damage as a result of their compulsive use of alcohol. But treatment programs may only substitute medications or fail to get to the root of the problem. Thus the numbers of those addicted to alcohol never seem to fall. With treatment that addresses the root causes of alcohol and repairs the damage done by this addiction, lasting sobriety can be the result.

Get help now. Call 800-468-6933


By Derry Hallmark