What Is The Definition of Alcoholism?

 By: Carolyn Nyman
Having been deemed as a physiological disease by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1956, alcoholism remains a continuing threat to the society. In the same way other diseases can be long-term and progressive; alcoholics remain vulnerable to the same characteristics. It has been noted that alcoholism, in serious cases, can lead to death.

'Actions of Alcohol', a book written by H. Wallgren and H. Barry in 1970, defined what it takes to be labeled as an alcoholic. The following standards were set:

A. A person who has had large amounts of consumption of alcohol for several years.

B. A person who is incapable of ceasing their routine of drinking due to an addiction to it.

C. Physical and Social health have long been compromised as a result of their drinking.

Unfortunately, these standards fail to represent the early and middle stages of alcoholism and tend to refer to middle or late stage alcoholics. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence or NCADD has expanded this definition to ensure the early, middle, and late stages of alcoholism are equally incorporated into their definition of alcoholism. A different set of standards were presented by the NCADD in the 1990's and remains the most widely accepted today.

According the NCADD, alcoholism is considered to be a disease and has genetic, social and environmental elements that can both effect and influence its development. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is progressive and can be deadly. It is typified by being either periodic or continuous. It produces impaired restrained over the amount of alcohol consumed by the alcoholic at any given time. Alcoholics have a preoccupation with drinking alcohol and will continue to drink regardless of the consequences. Alcoholics can not admit that their drinking is the primary cause of their problems.

Alcoholism is a disease with its own signs and symptoms and is not secondary to any other condition. It is a physical condition that incapacitates those who suffer from it. Furthermore, its effects can negatively affect the social stability of the practicing alcoholic. Their addiction, over time, can be progressive, chronic and dangerous. In many cases, alcoholism can lead to death.

Alcoholism can be fatal and cause serious damage to the vital organs such as the brain, kidneys and liver. But the cases of death related to alcoholism are not merely triggered by the consequences of one's physiology. Other alcohol related fatalities have been associated to overdoses, accidents, injuries, homicides and even suicides.

Alcoholics can be predisposed to alcohol dependency and may crave alcohol as soon as it enters their system. They also can not control their drinking and when they begin to drink can not recognize when they have had too much too drink. One thing that distinguishes the alcoholic from the normal drinker is that the alcoholic does not have the ability to stop drinking once they have started. For those who suffer from alcoholism, there tends to be a preoccupation on drinking. Alcoholics are known to continue their drinking patterns regardless of the negative consequences. Alcoholics may struggle with issues surrounding child neglect/abuse, poor job performance, absences from school, family and marital conflict, legal issues and health concerns, to name a few.

For alcoholics who still continue to be addicted to alcohol and are reluctant to undergoing appropriate treatment, denial is usually their major obstacle in getting help.

The alcoholic will argue that their drinking is not their fundamental problem. Alcoholics suffer from denial and struggle with getting honest with themselves and others. Denial enables them to continue drinking regardless of the negative effects it is causing in their lives.
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