The dictionary describes alcoholism as continued excessive or compulsive use of alcoholic drinks. However, this disease is much more complex. Alcohol abuse is a growing problem in the United States today, causing more and more deaths each year. It affects nearly everyone in the U.S. today, either directly or indirectly. Over half of Americans have at least one close relative that has a drinking problem. About 20 million people in the United States abuse alcohol. It is the third leading cause of preventable deaths, and about 100,000 people die each year from alcohol related incidents (Peacock 11).
Alcohol is not a new invention of modern societies. It has been around through many different ancient cultures, wine being the most prominent substance. Some cultures viewed alcohol consumption as good, while others perceived it good only in moderation. For example, the Greek god Bacchus was known for his excessive drinking while the Roman god Dionysus was known for teaching moderation in drinking (Peacock 20-21).
Alcoholism was also learned to have existed in history. Interpreted writings on the tomb of an Egyptian king who lived over 5,000 years ago read, "His earthly abode was rent and shattered by wine and beer. And the spirit escaped before it was called for." This shows that he died from alcohol related causes. However, most cultures began to limit alcohol use when they learned how to efficiently produce the beverage. Babylonian king Hammurabi and Chinese emperor Chung K'iang executed violators of their laws concerning alcohol (Peacock 20). Even in the Bible, refrain from alcohol is stressed. " Nor drunkards will inherit the kingdom of God" (Alcohol and the Bible). The United States was not immune to strict laws opposing alcohol. In 1919, the 18th Amendment was passed, limiting alcohol use. This period lasted for 14 years and became known as the Prohibition (Peacock 28).
Ancient and modern literatures show that alcohol has been around longer than most people think. For example, in the ancient epic of Giglamesh, written 4,000 years ago, one character was the goddess of wine and brewing, Siduri (World literature 136, 139). The Chinese poet Tu Fu wrote about celebrating an old friend's retirement with wine in his poem, "For Wei Pa, in Retirement" (World Literature 528). Prominent figures in more recent literature have died to alcohol related causes. Edgar Allen Poe, author of popular poems such as "The Raven" and "The Bells", died of alcoholism at the age of 40 (Selected Poetry). There is both physical and psychological dependence with alcohol addiction. Physical dependence reveals itself in withdrawal symptoms when alcohol intake is interrupted. Symptoms from withdrawal can vary from muscles cramps, convulsions, or nausea. Sometimes, the severity of these symptoms may be so distressing that a person will keep drinking to keep them away. Psychological dependence includes effects on the central nervous system as a depressant. Results of this can include irritability, depression, or hallucinations (Peacock 39). As well as changing his or her own life, the lifestyle of an alcoholic usually affects the life of his or her friends and family. Domestic abuse is higher in cases where one spouse abuses alcohol. In 95% of these cases, the men are responsible for abusing their wife or girlfriend. Usually, the violence gets more severe as time goes on. Sometimes the violence will reach out to children, intentionally or unintentionally, and results in child abuse (Peacock 54). Child abuse in families where at least one parent is an alcoholic is an overwhelmingly increasing problem today. Everyday, one in four children will come home to a parent who has a drinking problem (Botsford). Children of alcoholics have a higher tendency to abuse alcohol or other drugs, as they get older. These children also frequently suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Even...