Alcoholism is a deadly disease which claims the lives on hundreds of thousands of people every year. This disease is characterized by a significant increase in a person’s tolerance for alcohol, thereby leading to dependency. These attributes are believed to play a major role in hindering an alcoholic’s ability to quit drinking. Unfortunately, alcoholism has many adverse effects and causes the people who suffer from the disease a number of problems, both physically and mentally. Many researchers believe there is a specific gene present in alcoholics and that it may very well be a hereditary condition. There is also a link between this gene and the onset of drug dependency in individuals with family members, such as parents, who suffer from alcoholism.
How Can You Tell If a Person Is Abusing Alcohol?
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between a person who drinks for pleasure from time to time and someone who suffers from the disease of alcoholism. The reason for this is that there are many people who are known as “functioning alcoholics”. These people are able to carry on with their daily activities, including employment, caring for children and everything else that is required of them, without missing a beat. Sometimes a functioning alcoholic can go on for years alluding family and friends. Sadly, the disease is progressive which means it will almost always catch up with the alcohol at some point in time. Many times the result is illness but there are many consequences associated with alcoholism.
While there are some times it is hard to tell an alcoholic from a social drinker, there are some tell tale signs to look for. Generally speaking, a person who gets drunk every time they drink and perhaps even says, and does things that are out of character, can be considered a potential candidate for being labeled an alcoholic. In addition, people who seem to drink regularly, at all different times of the day may be suffering from an alcohol dependency. A good rule of thumb when assessing anyone for alcohol dependency is to look at their lives. Do they constantly seem to have to apologize for things they did while drinking? Have they been arrested for alcohol related offenses? If you know someone who fits this profile, you may want to try and convince that person to seek help.
The Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse
There are many illnesses which can occur in someone who drinks excessively. Some of those illnesses can be corrected if alcohol is discontinued and some of them cannot. If a person should begin to develop organ trouble due to heavy drinking, there is always a possibility that the organs can heal and repair naturally, if the person stops drinking, provided the damage is not too severe. However, once a person has developed cirrhosis of the liver, a condition in which the liver deteriorates, there is nothing that can be done to correct it.
Heart disease and stroke have also been reported in people who have battled alcoholism. In addition, a person tends to take on a drab and dull appearance with what is called a “bulbous nose” after prolonged consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol. Another common trait in a person who drinks large amounts of alcohol regularly is shaking hands. Alcoholics who are suffering from withdrawal will have unsteady hands in most cases. In addition, there may be marked speech issues such as slurs and lisps associated with alcoholism.
The Psychiatric Signs of Alcohol Abuse
In addition to the many physical problems alcohol abuse can cause, there can also be a variety of psychiatric issues which develop in people suffering from severe alcoholism. Things like chronic depression are not uncommon in people who drink to excess. Also, there is a noted increase in the risk of other more serious complications which often mimic disorders such as schizophrenia and permanent dementia. These conditions are often generalized as “wet brain”. Almost everyone has seen that miserable person pan handling and talking to themselves on the street. Many of these people became this way from chronic alcoholism from which they received no treatment. About 25% of alcoholics develop panic and anxiety disorders over time.
The good news is that most of the psychiatric effects of alcoholism can alleviate over time, provided the person receives help for the problem and stops drinking altogether. The only problem with this is that most people who have accelerated in their disease to the point of mental illness may be too far gone to recognize a need for help. This is where intervention becomes necessary. In some cases that intervention comes in the form of an arrest in which the alcoholic is jailed and forced to stop drinking. In other cases concerned family members take action.
The Social Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Perhaps the saddest part of alcoholism is what it does to the alcoholic’s family and loved ones. Much of the time, alcoholics end up alienating themselves from their significant others, children, siblings and parents. This can lead to major isolation and an array of consequences such as divorce. In addition, an alcoholic may lose his/her job, get arrested for alcohol related offenses and even commit violent crimes as a result of a lack in judgment caused by impairment.
In addition, children born to people who suffer from long term alcoholism have a much higher chance of developing emotional problems and drug or alcohol dependencies later in life. This is believed to be a direct consequence of years of neglect and even physical or emotional abuse. Alcoholics do things they never would have done sober and many times the ends are tragic. Finally, an alcoholic can commit the ultimate crime without intending to and that is taking the life of another individual due to drunk driving. This happens all the time and when it does it is not only devastating for the family of the victim, but for the family of the alcoholic as well.
The bottom line is that alcohol when used irresponsibly can be deadly, not only to the person with the problem but also to the people whose path he/she crosses. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, seek help before it is too late. Try to remember that where there is life, there is hope and as long as person is still breathing, there is a chance to heal and recover from this debilitating disease.