Alcoholism is a Progressive Disease

By: David Peters

One of the difficulties in recognizing alcoholism as a disease is it just plain doesn't seem like one. It doesn't look, sound, smell and it certainly doesn't act like a disease. To make matters worse, generally it denies it exists and resists treatment. Alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a primary, chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal disease. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a detailed and complete definition of alcoholism, but probably the simplest way to describe it is "a mental obsession that causes a physical compulsion to drink."

Early signs of alcoholism include frequent intoxication, an established pattern of heavy drinking and drinking in dangerous situations, such as when driving. Other early signs of alcoholism include black-out drinking or a drastic change in demeanor while drinking, such as consistently becoming angry or violent. The main symptom of alcohol abuse occurs when someone continues to drink after their drinking reaches a level that causes recurrent problems. Continuing to drink after it causes someone to miss work, drive drunk, shirk responsibilities or get in trouble with the law is considered alcohol abuse.

If you don't get diagnosed by your physician, you are more likely not to believe you have a disease, even if you admit that you might over-indulge occasionally on alcohol. It's when you begin to feel you cannot live without alcohol that you should realize you have a problem. When heavy or frequent drinkers suddenly decide to quit "cold turkey" they will experience some physical withdrawal symptoms -- which can range from the mildly annoying to severe and even life-threatening.

The severity of these withdrawal symptoms is usually dependent upon how "chemically dependent" the chronic drinker has become. Those who drink heavily on a daily basis of course have developed a high level of dependency, but even those who drink daily, but not heavily and those who drink heavily but not daily, can also be chemically dependent upon alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawal refers to a group of symptoms that may occur from suddenly stopping the use of alcohol after chronic or prolonged ingestion.Not everyone who stops drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms, but most people who have been drinking for a long period of time, or drinking frequently, or drink heavily when they do drink, will experience some form of withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly.

Sometimes admitting to yourself and others that you need help can be one of the most difficult steps to take on your road to recovery. In our society, the myth prevails that an alcohol problem is somehow a sign of moral weakness. "As a result, you may feel that to seek help is to admit some type of shameful defect in yourself. In fact, however, alcoholism is a disease that is no more a sign of weakness than is asthma or diabetes."

Some of the psychological symptoms are: feelings of jumpiness or nervousness; feelings of shakiness; anxiety; irritability or easily excited; emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes; depression; fatigue; difficulty with thinking clearly; having bad dreams. Some of the physical symptoms are: headache - general, pulsating; sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face; nusea; vomiting; loss of appetite; insomnia, sleeping difficulty; paleness; rapid heart rate (palpitations); eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils); clammy skin; abnormal movements; tremor of the hands; involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids.

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