Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that affects thousands of individuals and their families. The disease is characterized by problematic drinking that is uncontrollable and which results in physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol is abruptly eliminated or when drinking rapidly decreases. Those who suffer from alcoholism may not be able to determine how much they'll drink, how long they will drink or what will happen when they are drunk and this can lead to dire consequences in relationships, work, at home, in school and legally as well as financially.

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Alcoholism is the worst case scenario that comes from an advanced drinking problem but it is possible to be addicted to alcohol and not suffer from alcoholism. Problem drinking, which is a case of drinking too much, having major consequences as a result of drinking or otherwise having problems in life as a result of alcohol, is not necessarily alcoholism. Alcoholism is present when these problems are also paired with physical dependence that makes it merely impossible for the addict to control their drinking.

Many people who do have a drinking problem or who suffer from alcoholism are not able to quit drinking on their own. Most will need help in order to effectively overcome the physical and psychiatric issues that revolve around an alcohol addiction. Denial is a major part of addiction and typically common for those who are addicted to alcohol. Once you overcome this denial and accept that you do have a drinking problem, you can begin the long and difficult journey to recovery from the potentially fatal disease known as alcoholism.

Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism

So how do you know if your drinking is just problematic or if it is the sign of a deeper, more dangerous condition known as alcoholism? There are many factors that will come into consideration here but most importantly, problem drinking is not characterized by any physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms that lead the addict to drinking more. Alcoholism is characterized by physical dependence that actually leads that addict to drink more alcohol (tolerance) in an effort to produce the same effects and to minimize any subsequent feelings of withdrawal.

Most people who suffer from problematic drinking are able to stop drinking without any major withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, tremors, seizures or convulsions. Those who suffer from the physical dependence on alcohol are unable to abruptly quit drinking without having to deal with a series of rash withdrawal symptoms that could even pose additional medical risks to them. Alcoholism is marked by not only a strong desire to drink but a strong need to drink despite the repeated problems that occur when alcohol is involved.