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A need to drink that can be as strong as the need for food or water. Not being able to stop once drinking has begun. Short-term memory loss. Blackouts, where the user appears to others that he or she is awake and fully conscious – but in reality has no sense of time or action.
These are only some of the early physical effects of alcoholism, a chronic disease (in that it lasts a person’s lifetime) that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and ultimately death. Like other diseases, alcoholism usually follows a predictable course. And it has symptoms – such as the physical symptoms cited above. Then there are the damaging effects of alcohol abuse outside the body. Many alcoholics find it difficult to manage their lives, leading to legal problems and relationship problems that can result in the destructive breakup of marriages and families. Unfortunately, such problems often lead to more drinking and even more problems – driving drunk, for example, and the chance of accidentally killing someone.
To compound matters, researchers and treatment professionals have identified a strong link between alcoholism and drug addiction. While the perceived benefits of combining alcohol and drugs may play a big part in the high percentage of people who do so, the addictive effects and harmful consequences of both substances increase when they are used together.
Alcoholism has also attracted much attention as an inherited disease, a disease inherent in family genes. Research shows that there is, indeed, a risk of developing alcoholism in some families and not others. Research studies are underway to determine the actual genes that lead to the risk of alcoholism. But lifestyle is also a key factor, since the activities of friends, the amount of stress in someone’s life, and the availability of alcohol can also play a significant role in determining one’s risk for alcoholism.
But experts caution that risk is not destiny – that even though alcoholism may run in specific families, it doesn't mean that the child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic. The opposite is true, as well – there are people who become alcoholics even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.
There currently is no cure for alcoholism, although some effects of alcohol abuse can clear up after a year or two of sobriety. But even the alcoholic who hasn't been drinking for a long time can still suffer a relapse. The best defense against a relapse remains ongoing care, treatment and supervision in a structured environment where the alcoholic continues to avoid all alcoholic beverages.
If you need help, please don't put it off any longer. Contact us today.