The Disease of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can't consistently predict how much you'll drink, how long you'll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking. It's possible to have a problem with alcohol, even when it has not progressed to the point of alcoholism. Problem drinking means you drink too much at times, causing repeated problems in your life, although you're not completely dependent on alcohol. Binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks in a row, or a female downs at least four drinks in a row — can lead to the same health risks and social problems associated with alcoholism. The more you drink, the greater the risks. Binge drinking, which often occurs with teenagers and young adults, may lead to faster development of alcoholism. Patients with alcoholism or problems with alcohol, may not be able to cut back or quit without help. Denying that they have a problem is usually part of alcoholism and other types of excessive drinking. If a patient is experiencing signs and symptoms of Alcoholism they may: Be unable to limit the amount of alcohol they drink
Feel a strong need or compulsion to drink
Develop tolerance to alcohol so that they need more to feel its effects Drink alone or hide their drinking
Not remember conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as a "black out" Make a ritual of having drinks at certain times and become annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned Be irritable when their usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available Keep alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in their car Gulp drinks, order doubles or become drunk intentionally to feel good, or drink to feel "normal" Have legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking Lose interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring them pleasure If your patient is binge drink or has other problems with alcohol, they may have many of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, although they may not feel as much of a compulsion to drink compared with someone who has alcoholism. Also, they may not have physical withdrawal symptoms when they don't drink. But this pattern of drinking can still cause serious problems and lead to alcoholism. As with alcoholism, they may not be able to quit problem drinking without help. Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in people who have been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or years and then either stop or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after the last drink, persist for weeks, and range from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). The death rate from DTs -- which are characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever -- is estimated to range from 1% to 5%. Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can rapidly worsen, it's important to seek medical attention even if symptoms are seemingly mild. Appropriate alcohol withdrawal treatments can reduce the risk of developing withdrawal seizures or DTs. It's especially important to see a doctor if they’ve experienced previous alcohol withdrawal episodes or if they have other health conditions such as infections, heart disease, lung disease, or a history of seizures. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are a medical emergency. If seizures, fever, severe confusion, hallucinations, or irregular heartbeats occur, 911 should be called. Minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms often...
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