Alcoholism can be defined in accordance to three distinct dimensions. Culturally, alcoholism is defined as a form of deviant drinking behavior that falls outside what culture perceives as the acceptable limits of alcohol consumption. This means that in some societies alcoholic behavior may be viewed as normative as opposed to cultural; perceptions in another society. Behaviorally, alcoholism assumes definitions that distinct between alcohol use, misuse and abuse. In this context alcohol misuse denotes the expression of adverse consequences of alcohol use.
Alcohol abuse is definitive of a pattern of chronic and excessive alcohol consumption the effects of which express themselves as adverse physical, social and or behavioral consequences. Physiologically, alcoholism is defined with respect to alcohol addiction, habituation or dependence. Despite this diversity of definitions only the medical definition of alcoholism offers a succinct distinction as it relies on both the behavioral and physiologically based definitions(Steinglass, 31).
Alcoholism can thus be defined as an addictive dependency on alcohol induced craving accompanied by loss of control, complete physical dependence on alcohol and withdrawal symptoms Medically therefore alcoholism is understood to be a product of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Alcoholism is caused by grossly intricate, complex, interconnected and interrelated psychological, physiological, social and genetic factors (Kansal & Kamal 1). Usually a variety of factors lead to the development of alcoholism.
Social factors include the influence of friends, peers, family, the availability of alcohol, and the perceptions of the society. Psychological factors include inadequate coping mechanisms, elevated stress levels, and reinforcement of the use of alcohol from other drinkers. There is also a growing controversy over evidences that alcoholism may be caused by biologic and genetic predispositions (Powell 24). Recent genetic studies have confirmed that when D2 dopamine receptor gene is passed on from the parents to the siblings in a specific form, chances of developing alcoholism are enhanced.
Alcohol addiction or rather physical dependence on alcohol follows a gradual drinking pattern. With every pint of alcohol consumed the balance of chemicals in the brain like gamma aminobutyric acid which is responsible for the inhibition of impulsiveness, and another neurochemical glutamate which is responsible for nervous system excitation, are altered. Alcohol raises dopamine levels in the brain hence creating the pleasurable feeling that is usually associated with alcohol consumption. With time, excessive alcohol consumption depletes or increases the levels of such neurochemicals.
The resultant effect is that a level of craving is created where an individual will have to additively consume alcohol to restore good feelings or degenerate into withdrawal symptoms. Based on studies comparing the size of amygdala, researchers have been able to significantly correlate the size of amygdala and the addiction process. Because the size of amygdala is inherited and that it is home to neurotransmitters, it may contain the link between alcoholism and psychological predisposing factors such as stress and anxiety.
It is also postulated that inheritance of a dysfunction in serotonin transmission my be to blame for the degree of alcohol tolerance. Since serotonin is involved in well being behaviors such as eating, relaxing, sleeping as well as aggressive and impulsive behaviors any dysfunction in its transmission is bound to predispose an individual to alcoholism. Factors that contribute to the addiction process can be sub categorized as; genetic factors, emotional state factors, physiological factors, and socio-cultural factors. Genetic factors may cause an individual to develop a degree of vulnerability.
This vulnerability is caused by an imbalance in neurochemicals. Emotional state factors can either be stress, emotional pain or anxiety. These factors predispose a one to engage in alcohol consumption as a means of blanketing out undesirable emotions. Some hormones that are responsible for the development of stress, anxiety and depression have also been incriminated in the progression to alcoholism. Socio-cultural factors play a very important role in the development of alcoholism. Some cultures perceive alcohol as a rite of adulthood or manliness.
In such culture the media has been instrumental in glamorizing the consumption of alcohol through catchy phrasals and visuals. Such adverts which are obviously aimed at increasing the profitability of the sponsor mislead a huge chunk of the general populace in thinking that excessive alcohol consumption is the modernized version of entertainment. Alcoholism is a medical condition and as such it is expressed as symptomatic progressive disease. This disease is predominantly diagnosed through adverse effects and behaviors. The adverse effects are based on functioning.
Two basic diagnostic criteria are used. Usually alcohol abuse or alcoholism is related with a broad range of psychiatric, medical, social, legal, economic, occupational and family problems. So many of these symptoms are related to the descriptive of stage of dependency. Early signs of the disease include; frequent pursuit of intoxication which progresses into a well established heavy drinking pattern. During these circumstances an individual may blackout, experienced a drastic change in demeanor while consuming alcohol and exhibit impulsive behaviors such as anger and unaccustomed violence.
Other symptoms include; drunken driving, absence from work, shirking of responsibilities and basically having trouble with the law. In the absence of alcohol dependence acute intoxication can be fatal or cause mental damage. Another symptom is family problems. In most cases individuals suffering from alcoholism may be characterized by divorce, child abuse and neglect, spouse abuse, criminal behaviors and welfare dependence. The problem is even more worsened if the alcoholics themselves strive to conceal and develop a culture of denial even though they can discern the cause of family problems.
Fro this reason thousands of people suffering from alcoholism pass unrecognized by health professionals. Medically symptoms may be expressed in the form of alcoholism related diseases such as gastritis, pancreatitis, cirrhosis, neuropathy, cerebral atrophy, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, Korsakoff’s dementia, seizures, central pontine myelinolysis, confusion, hallucinations, peptic ulcers, malnutrition and gastrointestinal bleeding (www. mayoclinic. com). A second basic diagnostic criterion relies on the family history of alcoholism.
When children from families without any history of . alcoholism are compared with those from families with a history of alcoholism, it is easy to demonstrate the fact that children of alcoholics are at an elevated risk of alcohol abuse, misuse and alcoholism. Moreover, history of alcoholism may also predispose the younger children to other forms of drug abuse, anxiety disorders, conduct problems and a host of psychiatric disorders. All these are predisposing risk factors. Just like any disease, alcoholism can also be mitigated by a set of medical and non medical interventions.
Depending on various circumstances, the treatment program may encompass, an evaluation followed by a brief intervention. After this brief intervention the patient will be undertaken though an outpatient program and counseling or in other cases a residential inpatient stays (www. mayoclinic. com). Evaluation is mainly involves the determination of the level of dependence. Residential treatment programs carry out strategies like abstinence, alcoholism support groups (such as alcoholics anonymous), individual therapy and or group therapy, activity therapy, family involvement, educational lectures and in depth counseling programs.
Medical interventions mainly include the treatment and management of the alcohol related diseases and disorders. Works Cited Alcoholism. http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/alcoholism Kansal, Kamal & Kamal, Kansal. (2004). Homoeopathic Family Kit. B. Jain Publishers, p. 1-5 Powell. (2005). Alcohol. Black Rabbit Books, p. 24-25 Steinglass, Peter. (1988). The Alcoholic Family: Drinking Problems in a Family Context Taylor & Francis, p. 30-40