Alcohol Abuse

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| Alcoholism is a major and severe problem in the United States and Canada as well as in many countries around the globe. It not only negatively affects the lives of the alcoholics themselves but also has an extended and even lifelong effect on the lives of their family members. Alcoholism affects individuals in the workplace, where the alcoholic's work performance is usually impaired, and in the general economy, where the overall work productivity is shortchanged when all alcoholics are considered. Yet according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), some studies of primary care practices have shown that alcoholics receive an assessment by a medical professional and a referral to treatment only about 10 percent of the time.According to a study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2004, in considering the state averages of the percentages of people with alcohol dependence, the nationwide average statewide percentage for individuals ages 12 years and older for 2002 was 3.5 percent of the population, with the highest nationwide percentage seen among young adults ages 18-25 years, or 7 percent. In considering alcohol dependence on a state-by-state basis, the highest percentage of alcohol dependence was in the District of Columbia (5.20 percent) and the lowest rate in Pennsylvania: 2.79 percent.Genetic IssuesThere is a family history of alcoholism among many alcoholics and this may be due at least in part to a genetic predisposition. Studies of adoptees and their adoptive parents, with no genetic relationship to each other, have indicated that adopted adults (especially males) who have birth parents who are alcoholics have an increased risk for the development of alcoholism themselves.According to a 2002 article in Alcohol Research & Health, studies of adopted individuals showed that males whose birth parents were alcoholics had a 1.6 to 3.6 times greater risk for alcoholism compared to adopted men with no birth family history of alcoholism. The results were not clear-cut for adopted females. Some studies of adopted females showed an increased risk for alcoholism among women with a family history of alcoholism, and others did not.In another study of about 1,000 alcoholic subjects and their families, described in 2002 in Alcohol Research & Health, the researchers found a genetic linkage in sibling pairs on the traits of alcoholism and depression, located on chromosome 1. They also found possible evidence of a genetic link to alcohol dependence on chromosome 4.Psychiatric Problems and AlcoholismMany alcoholics also have psychiatric problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and other disorders; for example, alcoholics have nearly four times the risk of experiencing depression of nonalcoholics, nearly four times the risk of schizophrenia, and more than twice the risk for an anxiety disorder.Other studies have shown that 15-20 percent of alcoholic males and 10 percent of alcoholic females have Antisocial Personality Disorder. In addition, eating disorders are often associated with alcoholism, particularly anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, according to research discussed in 2002 in Alcohol Research & Health.This does not mean that alcoholism causes these disorders, although it may trigger disorders in those with genetic predispositions toward them. It may also mean that individuals who have these disorders, particularly those who are untreated, are more likely to become alcoholics, perhaps in an attempt to self-medicate. Researchers continue to argue over cause and effect when both alcoholism and psychiatric disorders are present in an individual, but the one point that they agree upon is that psychiatric disorders are more common among those who are alcoholics.Symptoms and Diagnostic PathThere are several classic symptoms of alcoholism, particularly when the individual is undergoing withdrawal and/or suffering from delirium...
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