Yes, alcoholism is very much a disease, and like other illnesses, a person can get better or worse. Alcoholism was identified to be a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956. Since then, decades of research have been conducted to define further why it is a disease, what causes it, and how it can be treated. The findings of this research have allowed for advanced understandings of what alcohol does to the brain. Science and medical communities have discovered that the reward pathway in the brain that is responsible for releasing dopamine when alcohol is consumed plays the most significant role in why alcoholism is a disease.
Explaining the Disease That is Alcoholism
Definitively alcoholism is a progressive and chronic disease of the mind and emotions that stem from multiple influencers. Three terms can broadly define the influencers that predispose a person to become an alcoholic: Nature, nurture, and neighborhood. Each of these influencers is found to be present with most people who cannot control their drinking and are considered alcoholics. Alcoholism is also now more accurately identified as alcohol use disorder. The first influencers are called nature. Nature refers to a person’s genetics as well as their emotional and mental health. If a person has a family history of alcoholism, their risk of also developing a problem with how much they drink is likely. The genetic relationship has been proven to exist through DNA analysis and other scientific research. Nurture also refers to whether or not the person is diagnosed with another illness. Mental and emotional disorders increase the prevalence of alcohol use disorders as many people who struggle with their mental health use alcohol to self-medicate. As well physical health concerns can also promote a person to drink alcohol to numb physical pain or the stress from their pain.
Alcohol Use Disorder is a Medical Diagnosis
The nurture aspect of alcohol use disorders refers to the home movement where someone grew up. If a person was raised in a home where abuse, neglect, or violence occurred, these individuals often struggle with alcohol use at some point in their life. The nurture category also includes whether drugs or alcohol were used in the home addictively or whether it was condoned. The nurture category also helps to identify if a person may have an undiagnosed emotional or mental health disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and others. The neighborhood category is similar to nurture but is more explicit on whether or not access and availability of alcohol were in the home during childhood or if it is presently within reach to someone who is drinking too much. The neighborhood aspect includes peer pressure or work environments where alcohol is served, or drinking is encouraged. Some alcoholics did not have access to alcohol while growing up, but their friends did, and this counts. Another way neighborhood is identified as an influencer is if a child or teenager was involved in getting alcohol or providing alcohol to a parent or other adult, but they did not use it.
Alcohol Use Disorder Leads to Chronic Alcoholism
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports how alcohol use disorder is still one of the leading addictions and how someone who is diagnosed as having a drinking problem must meet specific criteria set by the medical community.
An estimated 15 million people in the United States have AUD. Approximately 5.8 percent or 14.4 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 2018. To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Under DSM–5, the current version of the DSM, anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period, receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met. (NIAAA)
Get the help you need today to overcome alcoholism with the help of Evoke Wellness at Miramar. We are an addiction treatment facility in Miramar, FL that specializes in helping men and women struggling with alcohol use disorder. Achieve sobriety one step at a time under the careful guidance and support of clinical professionals. If you’re experiencing alcohol detox symptoms, we can help with that too so that you’re comfortable while getting off alcohol.