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WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
Alcoholism or Alcohol Dependence, is a chronic disease marked by a craving for alcohol. People who suffer from this illness are known as alcoholics.
They cannot control their drinking even when it becomes the underlying cause of serious harm, including medical disorders, marital difficulties, job loss, or automobile crashes.
Medical science has yet to identify the exact cause of alcoholism, but research suggests that genetic, psychological, and social factors influence its development.
Alcoholism cannot be cured yet, but various treatment options can help an alcoholic avoid drinking and regain a healthy life.
Alcohol dependence develops differently in each individual.
Alcoholics develop a craving, or a strong urge, to drink despite awareness that drinking is creating problems in their lives.
They suffer from impaired control, an inability to stop drinking once they have begun. Alcoholics also become physically dependent on alcohol.
When they stop drinking after a period of heavy alcohol use, they suffer unpleasant physical ailments, known as withdrawal symptoms, that can include nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
Alcoholics develop a greater tolerance for alcohol- that is, they need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol to reach intoxication.
Statistics show that alcohol dependence touches successful business executives, skilled mechanics, laborers, homemakers, and church members of all denominations.
Nearly 62 million people worldwide suffer from alcohol dependence. The prevalence of the illness varies in different countries. In the United States nearly 15 million people experience problems related to their use of alcohol.
In the United States, people who start to drink at an early age are at particular risk for developing alcohol dependence. Estimates indicate that 40 percent of people who begin to drink before age 15 will become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. These individuals are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who delay drinking until age 21.
PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is present in varying amounts in beers and wines, and in distilled liquors such as whiskey, gin, and rum.
When a person consumes alcohol, the stomach and intestines rapidly absorb it.
From there alcohol travels in the blood throughout the entire body, affecting nearly every tissue.
Moderate and high doses of alcohol depress the functions of the central nervous system, including the brain.
The higher the alcohol level is in the blood, the greater the impairment.
PERCENT OF ALCOHOL IN BLOODSTREAM EXPANDS.
As blood passes through the liver, enzymes break down alcohol into harmless byproducts, which are eliminated from the body six to eight hours later.
But the rate at which alcohol accumulates in the body may be faster than the rate at which the body eliminates it, resulting in rising alcohol levels in the blood.
Consequently, alcohol remains in the body, producing intoxicating effects hours after the last drink was swallowed.
Small amounts of alcohol may relieve tension or fatigue, increase appetite, or produce an anesthetic affect that numbs pain. Larger quantities inhibit or depress higher thought processes, bolstering self-confidence and reducing inhibition, anxiety, and guilt.
As a person becomes intoxicated, painful or embarrassing situations appear less threatening and, as drinking progresses, speech may become loud and slurred.
Impaired judgment may lead to incautious behavior, and physical reflexes and muscular coordination may become noticeably affected. If drinking continues, complete loss of physical control follows, ending in stupor, and possibly death.
DEVELOPMENT OF ALCOHOL DEPENDANCE
Alcohol-use disorders develop in a predictable pattern. Health professionals use three stages to describe this progression.
Each stage is defined by a set of symptoms that are used in early diagnosis and treatment. Most individuals who drink alcohol never progress beyond stage one and are commonly known as social drinkers.
A small percentage of social drinkers progress to stage two. In this early stage of a drinking problem, many people do not show any signs of illness.
But often, more severe problems develop with time and continued heavy drinking.
Activities that focus on drinking may take up increasingly larger amounts of time in the person's life, and as problem drinking progresses the alcoholic's intoxicated behavior may become disagreeable and antisocial.
A person may resort to drinking to relieve the physical discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. Most often, attempts to avoid the discomfort result in morning drinking to offset symptoms that develop after a bout of drinking the night before.
As drinking continues, drinkers cannot acknowledge that drinking and intoxication have become goals in themselves.
Drinking may become a technique for coping with problems, many of which have been brought about by alcohol use.
Drinkers may neglect responsibilities to their family, seriously damaging relationships with their partners and children.
Their productivity at work declines, often resulting in job loss. Despite numerous negative consequences experienced as a result of their drinking, they remain in denial about their problem.
They continue to claim to friends or family that they can stop drinking any time they want to. But in actuality they find it increasingly difficult to control their alcohol use.
Stage three is the final stage of alcohol dependence. In addition to suffering from many of the problems experienced by individuals in stage two, an individual in stage three can no longer control his or her drinking.
This impaired control, in which the compulsion to drink is overwhelming, is the key identifier that health professionals use to diagnose people who have progressed to alcohol dependence.
If you feel that you fit this profile, there are several Organizations that you can resort to.
On the web:
www.alcoholic-anonymous.org/ - Online program
www.ncadd.org/ - Online Program
http://www.adultchildren.org- Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization
www.stayingcyber.org/ - Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
The Life Link: (505) 438-0010 • Ayudantes Inc. in Santa Fe: (505) 438-0035 • Alcoholics Anonymous (A. A.) Meetings in and around Santa Fe and Los Alamos: See list of locations near you at
Santa Fe Friendship Club: 505-982-9040 • Santa Fe Recovery Center: 505-471-4985 • Santa Fe Alcoholic Anonymous (District 2 Area 46):
505- 982-8932 • NA Meetings in Santa Fe, New Mexico: 877-959-9533
Albuquerque, Alamogordo, Farmington, Rio Rancho and Las Cruces:
Amity Foundation: 505-242-2840 • Albuquerque, New Mexico Out Patient Rehab: 505-435-9622 • Las Cruces, New Mexico Detox Programs: 575-541-3487 • Farmington, New Mexico Addiction Treatment: 505-404-6673 • Albuquerque, New Mexico Interventions:
505- 227-8586 • Alamogordo, New Mexico AA Meetings: 575-541-3011 • Rio Rancho AA meetings: See list of locations near you at
http://www.simeetings.com/LA/NM/RioRanchoMtgs.html • CASAA: 505-925-2300
Native American Facilities:
Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos Inc. Behavioral Health Services Program: 505- 867-3351