Alcohol Addiction, Is It An Illness Or A Disease?

Articles, Australia, International, Understanding Addiction

While the question: Alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease, is certain to raise differing opinions, one thing is for certain:

If you are suffering from a dependence upon alcohol it is imperative you seek professional rehab assistance now.

Legal Liquid = Huge potential for dependence:

In countries that permit the sale and consumption of alcohol each drink comes with a health warning.

The problem appears to be that far too many men and women have either become so used to such warnings they take little heed of them, while others find it highly amusing to play on words:

Just 3 examples of the ‘wit’ you will hear relating to official slogans are:

Drink Responsibly: Why should I? My intention is to get mashed and mangled!

Do Not Have One For The Road: O.K. I will have two, it makes falling over less hurtful!

Drink In Moderation: I haven’t found ‘Moderation’ yet, until I do and they let me in I will drink when and where possible and as often as I please.

We could go on, but are sure you get the picture.

The issue here is that the question: Alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease, has very serious implications for those bent on over-imbibing.

The amount of alcohol you consume is something to be taken seriously rather than lightly. This is because as sure as night follows day, those who continue to drink regularly and heavily are heading for alcohol dependence.

Let’s understand why:

Why is alcohol so addictive?

This is because it is a CNS (Central Nervous System) depressant. It is a well-known fact that when taken in moderation alcohol relaxes, reduces anxiety and helps loosen inhibitions.

This is the positive side of a legal substance with the hidden potential to cause addiction.

Regular or heavy drinking sessions take a toll on your brain and your body. This is because both develop a tolerance to the amount of alcohol you consume.

While this tolerance allows you to consume more, it also needs to be constantly ‘fed’. As you feed this tolerance then your dependence upon alcohol becomes stronger, and crucially it takes more of the same simply to achieve the ‘high’ previously experienced.

Long periods of constant daily drinking or regular heavy drink sessions continue to build up your tolerance until you need alcohol simply to feel ‘normal’.

Without it you feel ‘lost’ or ‘empty’. Such dependence is reinforced when those who try to stop drinking begin to suffer unwanted physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Such symptoms will quickly encourage them to “get back off the wagon”.

Alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease – Physical issues:

Dependent upon which source you listen to or read it will become clear that alcohol addiction is both and illness and a disease.

Indeed, from a medical point of view it is often described as a medical illness through the disease model.

From a disease perspective it is seen that this physical addiction cannot be controlled, it has common symptoms, and successful alcohol rehab treatment includes specialised medical treatment.

Other strong reasons as to why alcoholism is classified as a physical disease are down to the withdrawal symptoms that are to be expected when abstaining from alcohol.

Those withdrawing will find common physical symptoms that have to be accepted as part and parcel of their recovery process. These include sweating, shaking, sickness and light-headedness.

Alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease – Psychological issues:

Because alcoholism is classed as an addiction it is considered a brain disease. Abuse of alcohol can physically alter the brain thus causing it to function differently, and to form the basis of addictive behaviour which is similar to those with drug dependence issues.

It is very important for those attempting to lead an alcohol free future to understand fully that alcohol rehab programs will focus on both the physical and psychological damage excessive drinking has caused.

While the physical damage may heal reasonably quickly there is a strong chance that the psychological issues will remain far longer.

Due to these psychological problems it is imperative that those who have battled and are winning the first phase of their alcohol addiction continue with regular aftercare treatment.

This essential ongoing treatment will go a long way to ensuring they do not have a relapse situation on their hands.

How much damage have I caused already?

This is an interesting point when discussing alcohol addiction, is it a disease or an illness; so let’s look at it from 3 angles:

Physical damage:

This very much depends upon how long a person has been addicted to alcohol along with their physical health, diet and general well-being.

Assuming there is no severe liver, heart or vital organ damage, a person who quits drinking, stays dry, carries out regular exercise and keeps a reasonable diet should recover physically in a reasonable time frame.

Psychological damage:

This is much harder to assess. As mentioned, addiction to alcohol affects the brain, your feelings and your thought process.

These aspects of mental damage need to be assessed and measured by professionals and should be regularly monitored to assess a person’s state of mind.

As well as medical assessments, counselling plays a vital part in the recovery process. Professional counsellors will make it their duty to understand how a person coming off alcohol feels, help them work through their issues, and understand how they are responding to the various strands of treatment.

Social/Relationship damage:

When discussing alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease, it is vital to remember the social and relationship problems that excessive alcohol consumption causes.

Many alcoholics find their relationships in tatters, this generally leads to heavier drinking in an attempt to bury such problems with a bottle.

While this may be considered a natural reaction by many, it is equally true that deep down the alcoholic realises that it is drink which is the major cause of such relationship breakdowns.

The problem is that the grip alcohol has on them makes it extremely difficult to think rationally about the damage they are causing to themselves and their loved ones.

As well as the hurt and damage your drinking is causing to family and loved ones there is also a strong possibility that your work will suffer and your social circle will shorten.

Alcohol addiction, is it an illness or a disease? It is both!

The truth of the matter is that being addicted to alcohol is no fun whatsoever, it is also potentially life threatening.

If you find yourself sliding into the alcohol abyss then it is absolutely vital you seek professional alcohol rehab assistance, and just as importantly that such help is found NOW!

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.
If you, or someone you care about, needs help for a drug or alcohol addiction, contact one of our therapists today.
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