Alcoholism


Image Caption : Phosphorus Test and Chronic Alcoholism : The phosphorus test is used to monitor the levels of phosphorus in the blood. Most of the body's phosphorus is in a form combined with calcium to help form bones and teeth, but it is also found in muscle, nerve tissue, and, in tiny but crucial amounts, within cells throughout the body, where it is a component of key molecules such as DNA. About 80% of phosphorus resides in the bones and teeth. Because alcohol can leach phosphorus from the bones, phosphorus deficiency is often associated with alcoholism, especially when combined with malnutrition.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Also called: Alcohol dependence

For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder. This means that their drinking causes distress and harm. It includes alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that causes

  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've started
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance - the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect

With alcohol abuse, you are not physically dependent, but you still have a serious problem. The drinking may cause problems at home, work, or school. It may cause you to put yourself in dangerous situations, or lead to legal or social problems.

Another common problem is binge drinking. It is drinking about five or more drinks in two hours for men. For women, it is about four or more drinks in two hours.

Too much alcohol is dangerous. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It can cause damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. Drinking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Alcohol also increases the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.

If you want to stop drinking, there is help. Start by talking to your health care provider. Treatment may include medicines, counseling, and support groups.

NIH: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex among others. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, an irregular heart beat, liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Generally women are more sensitive to alcohol's harmful physical and mental effects than men.

Both environmental factors and genetics are associated with alcoholism with about half the risk attributed to each. A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves. Environmental factors include social, cultural, and behavioral influences. High stress levels, anxiety, as well as inexpensive easily accessible alcohol increases risk. People may continue to drink partly to prevent or improve symptoms of withdrawal. A low level of withdrawal may last for months following stopping. Medically alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness. Both questionnaires and certain blood tests may detect people with possible alcoholism. Further information is then collected to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention of alcoholism is possible by regulating and limiting the sale of alcohol, taxing alcohol to increase its cost, and providing inexpensive treatment. Treatment may take several steps. Because of the medical problems that can occur during withdrawal, alcohol detoxification should be carefully controlled. One common method involves the use of benzodiazepine medications, such as diazepam. This can be either given while admitted to a health care institution or occasionally while a person remains in the community with close supervision. Other addictions or mental illness may complicate treatment. After detoxification support such as group therapy or support groups are used to help keep a person from returning to drinking. One commonly used form of support is the group Alcoholics Anonymous. The medications acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone may also be used to help prevent further drinking.

The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2010 there were 208 million people with alcoholism worldwide (4.1% of the population over 15 years of age). In the United States about 17 million (7%) of adults and 0.7 million (2.8%) of those age 12 to 17 years of age are affected. It is more common among males and young adults, becoming less common in middle and old age. It is the least common in Africa at 1.1% and has the highest rates in Eastern Europe at 11%. Alcoholism directly resulted in 139,000 deaths in 2013 up from 112,000 deaths in 1990. A total of 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are believed to be due to alcohol. It often reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years. In the United States it resulted in economic costs of $224 billion USD in 2006. Many terms, some insulting and others informal, have been used to refer to people affected by alcoholism including: tippler, drunkard, dipsomaniac, and souse. In 1979, the World Health Organization discouraged the use of "alcoholism" due to its inexact meaning, preferring "alcohol dependence syndrome".


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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.