Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:
- Craving--A strong need, or urge, to drink
- Loss of control--Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
- Physical dependence--Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking
- Tolerance--The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high."Alcoholism is a disease. The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person's lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course; and it has symptoms.
The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person's genes and by his or her lifestyle. Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes that put people at risk for alcoholism.
Your friends, the amount of stress in your life, and how readily available alcohol is also are factors that may increase your risk for alcoholism.
But remember: Risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn't mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. By the same token, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. Knowing you are at risk is important, though, because then you can take steps to protect yourself from developing problems with alcohol.
To guard against a relapse, an alcoholic must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.
Answering the following four questions can help you find out if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:
· Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
· Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
· Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
· Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
One "yes" answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one "yes" answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health care provider right away. They can help you determine if a drinking problem exists and plan the best course of action.
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