Alcoholism is a primary, progressive, and if left untreated, often fatal disease. The mechanism of alcohlism is addiction, which can occur through the use of any mood-altering substance, also known as intoxicant. Alcohol abuse leading to dependence may be described alternatively as chemical dependency. The following as a defintion of chemical dependency that can be used as a guide in assessing any substance use, whether legal, illicit, or prescribed.
What is Chemical Dependency?
Chemical dependency is a primary disease characterized by the compulsive use of mood altering drugs (including alcohol) despite adverse consequences (I continue to do something, expecting a different result).Characteristics
- Primary Disease: The disease itself causes drinking or drug use. It is not secondary to some other disease or mental illness.
- Chronic: There is no cure for the disease, but it can be treated and controlled. It demands a change in behavior.
- Progressive: The disease always gets worse, it does not get better, and there is no turning back and beginning all over again as if one never drank or used.
- Fatal: This is a fatal disease if not controlled. It always leads to premature death and serious health problems even if death certificate indicates the cause of death to be on eof the complications of the disease, e.g., heart problems, liver failure, bleeding ulcers, etc.
- Treatable: The disease can be controlled if the drinking or drug use stops. It is much like diabetes in the sense that if the body chemistry is stabilized by not drinking or using, the the alcoholic may lead a normal life.
- Relapse: Is a common aspect of the disease, in that it is often easy for alcoholics to stop drinking, even a very long period, but it is hard to “stay stopped”.
- Genetics Play a Part: Since 1980 many studies corroborate genetic or familial predisposition to the disease.
- Denial is a hallmark of the disease.
Used by permission from the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP).
Many symptoms of alcoholism can be identified early in the disease process but left untreated alcoholism can be fatal. Along the way, alcoholism symptoms affect the alcoholic, surrounding family, friends and career. Alcoholism symptoms are more than just physical, they are also mental. Alcoholism symptoms are reoccurring based on continued alcohol abuse and should be treated immediately.
Obvious alcoholism symptoms include the continued use of alcohol despite physical and mental difficulties, such as not being able to remember events and persistent hangovers. Having a desire to quit drinking but being unable to do so is an indicator of alcohol dependency. One sign that people often miss is the increased tolerance for alcohol. Alcoholics often attribute their ability to drink excessively large amounts of alcohol to “holding their liquor” but this ability is not an asset for the alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease and alcoholism symptoms are indicators that the disease is present in the mind and body. Other physical symptoms may include:
- increased tolerance
- continued use despite physical problems
- abdominal pain
- red eyes, puffy face
- numbness in the arms or legs
- swelling of the liver
- blackouts, not remembering drinking episodes
Alcoholism symptoms are not restricted to the physical however. Alcoholism is a disease of the mind as well. Alcohol is often abused to self medicate anxiety, depression, irritability and sleep disorders but these conditions are worsened by drinking. This vicious cycle increases the amount of drinking as the psychological problems become increasingly traumatic and drinking is continued to numb the pain. Alcoholics will often deny having alcoholism symptoms and may drink in secret to cover-up the problem. Dramatic mood swings and aggression also accompany alcoholic drinking.
These physical and psychological alcoholism symptoms affect family life of course. Without alcoholism treatment, the alcoholic will often begin to isolate him or herself both physically and emotionally in order to avoid criticism about drinking. Family and friends will notice that major social engagements will be ruined or missed entirely.
Getting drunk at the exact wrong moment is another one of those clear alcoholism symptoms that may often be excused by loved ones who don’t wish to face the truth. The alcoholic is often in denial about his or her situation and given enough time the surrounding family can adapt to the unhealthy behavior, accepting the abnormal as normal.
The job is usually one of the last things to go in the progression of alcoholism. The alcohol abuser tries very hard to not drink at work but as the disease of alcoholism increases, the morning drinks to calm the shakes and the couple of drinks for lunch start to grow in number. It may start with an afternoon off here and there but pretty soon major work obligations are becoming difficult or going unfulfilled and the alcohol abuser may be disciplined or fired.