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Questions About Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Q: What do we mean by alcoholism?

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Alcoholism, also known as "alcohol dependence," is a condition that includes craving and continued alcohol abuse despite repeated drinking-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It includes four symptoms:

  1. Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  2. Impaired control: The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.
  3. Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  4. Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.


Q: Is alcoholism inherited?

There are many factors that can influence the development of alcoholism. Genetics is one of these, and it is true that alcoholism tends to run in families. Some of the other factors that can influence a person to abuse alcohol are:

  • Environment
  • Stress Levels
  • Availability of alcohol
  • Influence of friends or social group

There are no "rules" when it comes to alcohol abuse. A person with absolutely no family history of alcoholism can still become alcohol dependent. Or a person who has a family where every family member drinks may never develop alcoholism.


Q: Is alcoholism a disease?

This is a subject of hot debate among treatment professionals. While there is some evidence that alcoholism has a biochemical component, the most successful treatment philosophies treat alcoholism as a mental or spiritual problem. There is no pill or medication currently available that can remove the desire to drink.


Q: What about medications for alcoholism?

Alcohol creates a physical dependence in the drinker, and withdrawal can be life-threatening. So when an alcoholic is being withdrawn from alcohol, medication may be necessary. In the long term, however, there is no medication that has been shown to be effective in "curing" alcoholism.





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