Chronic Alcoholism Explained
Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder is defined as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors that influence its development. Alcoholism is characterized by several factors:
- A prolonged period of heavy and frequent alcohol use.
- The inability to control drinking once the person has begun.
- Physical dependence will cause withdrawal symptoms if the person stops drinking.
- Tolerance or the need to use more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects.
- Experiencing a variety of social and/or legal problems arising from the individual’s alcohol use.
Chronic alcoholism occurs when years of daily drinking start to have serious consequences for the alcoholic. Prolonged exposure to alcohol causes changes in the brain and with neurotransmitters, which leads to addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal. At this stage of alcoholism, virtually every organ system in the body is affected, and the individual cannot stop drinking without experiencing dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Definition of Chronic Alcohol Abuse
According to the National Library of Medicine:
Chronic heavy alcohol use can also cause long-term problems affecting many organs and systems of the body. These health problems include irreversible liver disease (cirrhosis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), brain dysfunction (encephalopathy), nerve damage (neuropathy), high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), and immune system problems. Long-term overuse of alcohol also increases the risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast. Alcohol use in pregnant women can cause birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to lifelong physical and behavioral problems in the affected child. (NLM)
Chronic alcoholism causes severe emotional and physical deterioration. The individual obsesses over drinking, they need alcohol to function, they lose interest in other parts of life, they experience anxiety, depression, and insomnia, their financial, legal, and relationship problems continue to get worse, and they experience severe health problems.
Characteristics of A Severe Alcoholic
There are five types of alcoholics. Chronic severe alcoholic accounts for about 9% of the U.S. population. This type of alcoholic usually starts drinking and struggling with alcohol at a young age and are currently middle-aged. They also tend to have antisocial personality disorders at high rates and regularly have issues with the law. Chronic severe alcoholics also suffer from psychiatric disorders including bipolar depression and anxiety disorders, and they usually have a close family member that has also suffered from alcoholism.
Chronic severe alcoholics often abuse other drugs at higher rates than other types of alcoholics as well. They usually smoke, and may also suffer from opioid, cocaine, and/or marijuana dependence in addition to their alcohol addiction. Chronic severe alcoholics usually experience severe problems in their life related to their drinking such as job loss, homelessness, legal problems, health issues, relationship issues, and other emotional, behavioral, and social concerns.
However, the chronic severe alcoholic is the most likely to seek treatment and professional help. They are also the most represented type of alcoholic in a treatment program. It is noted that around two-thirds of chronic severe alcoholics do get help for their drinking.
Treatment for Chronic Alcoholism
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