What Is Alcoholism?
Merriam-Webster describes alcoholism like this:
- Continued excessive or compulsive use of alcoholic drinks
- a. Poisoning by alcohol.
- b. A chronic disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction
Alcoholism is usually characterized by the following traits:
- Craving -
- The overwhelming need or compulsion to drink.
- Loss of Control -
- The inability to stop consuming alcohol once a person begins.
- Physical Dependence -
- When alcohol consumption is stopped after a period of heavy use, withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, anxiety and shakiness. These symptoms are relieved by taking another drink or by the use of sedatives.
- Tolerance -
- To achieve the same "high" greater amounts of alcohol are required.
Alcoholism actually has little to do with the type of drink or the amount consumed, but everything to do with the person's inability to limit the need for alcohol. With prolonged use of alcohol, the brain chemistry changes and becomes accustomed to and dependent upon presence. The body and brain's desire for more alcohol can become stronger than even the need for food or water.
The question is asked: Why do some individuals develop a dependency on alcohol and others are able to remain casual users? It is thought that alcoholism is an inherited, genetic disease. But genetics is only part of the equation. Environmental factors such as peer influences, availablility of alcohol, economic difficulties, etc. play an important role in determining the likelihood of the development of alcoholism.