Alcoholism – A Little Context. In the early part of the 20th century in the United States, a law was passed that made alcoholic beverages illegal. It was called Prohibition, and the idea was to prevent alcoholism among Americans. This gave rise to some interesting characters who were willing to break the law to make hard liquor, wine, and beer available to those who knew which door to knock on and what the password was.
Wisely, the law was eventually repealed. Even though alcohol is now legal in the United States, misuse can still result in alcoholism, causing problems with the law, jobs, and relationships. This disease is when someone cannot control how much alcohol they drink, abuse alcohol, or experience emotional distress when not drinking.
Some use alcohol regularly, not realizing they have crossed the line because their alcoholism has not yet begun to cause problems for them. But it starts to cause changes in the brain. These changes increase the pleasure felt when drinking alcohol. The changes also begin to shrink the frontal lobe. This is the area of the brain where decisions are made. You can see that alcoholism probably not suitable for those who need to make the right decision- so everyone. Eventually, the pleasure feelings diminish, and more alcohol is required to feel that pleasure again. It’s time to make that right decision, but the frontal lobe has become less able to make the decision.
Several factors can be looked at as a risk assessment for alcoholism, including:
- length of time alcohol has been consumed (i.e. months, years)
- if there alcoholics in the family, especially a parent
- more than 15 drinks per week for males, more than 12 for females
- mental health problems (bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia, and depression)
- high stress
- low self-esteem
- a family or culture where alcohol use is expected, accepted, and common
Alcoholism- What it looks like
Alcoholism is not fun for the alcoholic, and it is not fun for family members to see a loved one hurting. Alcoholics will seek times to drink alone, even if that means distancing themselves from family. Alcoholism often looks like missing work, school, and other important events to drink. There may be physical symptoms such as not paying attention to personal hygiene, not eating regularly, and craving alcohol. If a person using alcohol has started doing these things, they are probably also experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The liver may be damaged as well as the frontal lobe of the brain.
Just as the United States wanted to avoid alcoholism in the general population, personal Prohibition is a choice you can make. Keeping alcohol out of your life will require making some hard decisions. But alcoholism can be overcome.
If you or your loved one is finally ready to walk away from their Drinking and make that change, then you will need some help. There are many different ways that alcoholism is treated. Group therapy and 12-steps groups are beneficial in alcoholism, both to the alcoholic and family members.
It is essential to involve a doctor so that any physical problems caused by alcoholism can be taken care of. There may be bleeding or cancer in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, damage to brain cells, possibly high blood pressure or pancreatitis. Depression may also accompany your recovery lifestyle and will need to be addressed.
It sounds scary, but with the right help can be overcome.
A supportive doctor can also prescribe certain drugs that can help in avoiding alcohol use. Disulfiram is a drug that causes physical discomfort if alcohol is used. Naltrexone is used after alcohol consumption to prevent the ‘high’ or the pleasure of drinking. Acamprosate is a medicine that is used to restore the brain’s condition before the addiction.
There is Hope
Of course, all of these must be used under a doctor’s supervision and combined with therapy. Inpatient therapy and detoxing are also treatments.
If you and your loved one are ready to declare Prohibition and begin the healing process, then seek out the help of the caring professionals at Olympus Healing Center. Call today at 385-421-5400 to set up an appointment or ask questions.