Alcohol Addiction

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Alcohol Addiction

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex among others. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, an irregular heart beat, liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Generally women are more sensitive to alcohol's harmful physical and mental effects than men.

Both environmental factors and genetics are associated with alcoholism with about half the risk attributed to each. A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves. Environmental factors include social, cultural, and behavioral influences. High stress levels, anxiety, as well as inexpensive easily accessible alcohol increases risk. People may continue to drink partly to prevent or improve symptoms of withdrawal. A low level of withdrawal may last for months following stopping. Medically alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness. Both questionnaires and certain blood tests may detect people with possible alcoholism. Further information is then collected to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention of alcoholism is possible by regulating and limiting the sale of alcohol, taxing alcohol to increase its cost, and providing inexpensive treatment. Treatment may take several steps. Because of the medical problems that can occur during withdrawal, alcohol detoxification should be carefully controlled. One common method involves the use of benzodiazepine medications, such as diazepam. This can be either given while admitted to a health care institution or occasionally while a person remains in the community with close supervision. Other addictions or mental illness may complicate treatment. After detoxification support such as group therapy or support groups are used to help keep a person from returning to drinking. The medications acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone may also be used to help prevent further drinking.

 

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Young Adult Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

The young antisocial subtype comprises 21% of U.S. alcoholics. They are 26 years old, on average. More than half have antisocial personality disorder. They tended to start drinking at 15 and became alcoholics by 18 -- earlier than other subtypes. They are more likely to smoke tobacco and pot. The young antisocial subtype and the young adult subtype don't overlap.

Young Antisocial Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

This second category in the types of alcoholics is also a large one, accounting for 21 percent of the total alcoholics in the study. The average age of members of this group is 26 years old, but unlike the young adult, these types of drinkers began drinking much earlier, starting at 15 and developing alcoholism by the age of 18. Half of this group has family members who are alcoholics. Half also have an antisocial disorder, making it difficult for them to seek or accept help for alcoholism. Members of this group also have an increased likelihood of drug use, especially of marijuana, cocaine and opioids. Eventually, 33 percent of this group's members will look for help in recovering from their alcoholism.

High Functioning Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a person that maintains jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism. Numbers from the Harvard School of Public Health show that 31 percent of college students show signs of alcohol abuse and 6 percent are dependent on alcohol. Thus, about 37 percent of college students may meet the new criteria for alcoholism defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Doctors hope that the new definition will help identify severe cases of alcoholism early, rather than when the problem is fully developed.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

Intermediate familial alcoholics make up 18.8 percent of all alcoholics. Nearly half (47 percent) of them have a close family member who is also an alcoholic. They have an average age of 38 years, began drinking at almost age 17, and developed alcohol dependence at an average age of 32 years. Intermediate familial alcoholics drink on an average of 172 days a year, consuming five or more drinks on 93 (54 percent) of those days, with a maximum of 10 drinks.

Chronic Severe Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

An individual who is in the chronic severe type is one of only 9 percent of the population of alcoholics in the United States. This group is the most commonly thought of when stereotyping who an alcoholic is. They are typically men, are divorced, and use other substances as well as alcohol. They are often homeless or living in dysfunctional accommodation. Often they suffer from mental health issues such as depression or schizophrenia.

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