Alcoholism is addiction to alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence defines alcoholism as "a chronic disease characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking." (JAMA 1992). Alcoholism is common in many societies; over 17 million people are estimated to suffer from it in the U.S. (NIH 2008). The disease is notorious because it is widespread, often passes as "socially acceptable" drinking, and brings with it many ill effects for the alcoholic. Alcohol is the cause of many bad effects. The most common ones are physical, psychological, and economic in nature.
Alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic drug that acts on the brain like barbiturates and tranquilizers like Valium. The body can become physically dependent on this chemical, and some people become actually physically addicted to it. This is one reason alcohol can be a hard habit to break. For persons who are addicted to alcohol, suddenly stopping drinking triggers withdrawal symptoms that can include elevated blood pressure, nausea, shaking, possibly even seizures or sudden death. (Behavioral Medicine Associates 2008).
[...] The other set of psychological effects of alcohol come from the individual's mental state of being addicted to a substance. While addicted, their thinking changes. They tend to rationalize their behavior, minimize the ill effects, and are likely to be in denial about their actions and the consequences of them. In the long term, psychologists say that addicts often use substances including alcohol to hide from their feelings and avoid working their way through regular problems and life challenges, such as those found in a relationship with a partner. [...]
[...] Economic effects Persons who are dealing with moderate or severe alcoholism may have difficulty holding onto their jobs. Work performance may suffer, or they may miss work entirely as they deal with a hangover or a drinking binge. Sick days, days off and days just plain missed from work are higher among alcoholics than others in the workplace. Across the country, on the average, persons who drink in excess of 7 drinks a week lose roughly 15% more time at work than persons who don't drink or who drink moderately. [...]
[...] Alcohol can cause a chemically induced depression, either while drinking, or during withdrawal from the drug (NIAAA 2008). This can alter a person's behavior or thoughts away from how they normally are: for instance, a person may become severely depressed for minor reasons, or suffer anxiety, or become suicidal. A large number of suicides involve alcohol use; suicide rates for people with alcoholism are 30 times greater than for the general population (Waller 1999). Or, instead of depressed or suicidal, many alcoholics may become violent and aggressive. [...]
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