Alcohol Addiction And Alcoholics
The Many Faces of Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction is as old as alcohol itself. Philosophers Plato and Aristotle condemned alcohol abuse. The ancient Chinese warned of the dangers of abusing beer. In the 1600s, a Greek monk wrote that excessive drinking was detrimental to the nerves and brain. Then Prohibition hit the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. That, however, was mostly a result of social pressure not a concern over addiction.
The 19th Century term for alcoholism was dipsomania. Today, alcohol addiction goes by many names: alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol misuse, etc. And it has many definitions.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) defines alcoholism as “a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) calls alcoholism a “dual disease”—classifying it under both psychiatric and medical conditions.
What is clear about alcoholism is that it affects many Americans in many negative ways. Think about some of these effects:
- Anxiety, depression and suicide
- Violence against spouse and children
- Risky sexual behavior
- Employment problems
- Health problems (liver disease, anemia, cancer, and HIV)
- Spiritual problems
- Impaired social relationships
- Legal problems
- Financial problems
- Increases chances of drug abuse
And think about these statistics:
- Over 17 million adults are addicted or abuse alcohol
- Alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable deaths
- An alcoholic negatively impacts 5 other people
- Over 40% of car accident fatalities are alcohol-related.
Alcoholics: The Five Subtypes
A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) identified the following five types of alcoholics:
- Young Adult: 31% of U.S. alcoholics. Low rates of mental disorders, low rates of family alcoholism. Rarely seek help for their addiction.
- Young Antisocial: 21% of U.S. alcoholics. Mid-20s, early drinking problems; over 50% come from family with drinking problems; many have major depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety issues. More than one-third seeks help.
- Functional: 20% of U.S. alcoholics. Middle-aged, well educated with stable jobs/family. One-third has family alcoholism history; one-quarter had major depression.
- Intermediate Familial: 19% of U.S. alcoholics. Middle-aged with 50% of family alcoholism; half with clinical depression; one-fifth had problems with illicit drugs. About 25% seek treatment.
- Chronic Severe: 9% of U.S. alcoholics. Middle-aged with early drinking problems. About 80% have family alcoholism. High rates of depression and bipolar disorder. Two-thirds seek help with treatment.
Testing for Alcohol Addiction
How do you know if you or someone you love is addicted? For some, the answer is obvious. But just like any diagnosis that involves psychological conditions, testing for alcoholism isn’t always black and white.
Over the years, medical professionals have developed screens to help identify alcohol addiction. Here are three of the more popular tests:
1) The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is a 10-question screen developed by the World Health Organization. It has correctly identified 95% as either alcoholics or non-alcoholics.
How often do you have 6 or more drinks on one occasion?
Less than monthly (1)
Daily or almost daily (4)
2) The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST) is a popular 22-question self-screening test.
Have you ever neglected your obligations, your family, or you work for two or more days in a row because you were drinking? Yes/No
3) The CAGE alcohol addiction 4-question test is used around the world. It is simple but accurate. The yes or no questions are:
- Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
- Have you ever been Annoyed when people have commented on your drinking?
- Have you ever felt Guilty or badly about your drinking?
- Have you ever had an Eye opener (drink) first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
The most important move you can make towards sobriety is to call a treatment center. Recoverycorps.org has hundreds of alcohol rehab centers in their database. Click on a location now or enter your address in the box above to find treatment centers in your area.