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Alcoholism: An Understanding Of Terms
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Alcoholism is the chronic ill effects on health due to alcohol abuse and addiction.

It is very important to clarify and make the distinctions between alcohol abuse, addiction, intoxication and alcoholism.

Alcohol binge refers to an intemperate or immoderate consumption of alcohol. The excess consumption of alcohol which results in intoxication (the alcoholic stupor or drunkenness), usually occurs when persons are in a celebratory mood.

Alcohol abuse refers to the inappropriate and excessive consumption of alcohol over a period of months or years. In simpler terms, ‘a bad habit of drinking’ has developed. These persons are referred to as alcoholics.

Alcohol addiction refers to dependency on alcohol and this addiction can be psychological or physiological. It is the sequel of alcohol abuse.

In psychological alcohol addiction, one can say that the dependency is not complete. It is more of an emotional reaction where a constant craving for alcohol developed, from the bad habit of drinking alcohol.

HABIT is Having Accustomed Behavior Independent of Thought!

From this acronym; it is clearly understood that like any other habit the individuals affected are simply going through a routine. This routine may follow a pattern and be daily, twice daily or depending on the severity, whenever an occasion or opportunity arises. There is no real conscious effort to drink; a burning desire is always there. The person is now on autopilot.

In physiological alcohol addiction, the dependency on alcohol is complete. The persons affected need to take alcohol for them to be able to function in their regular daily activities at home or work. The constant craving is present, and without alcohol being ingested then symptoms and signs of withdrawal develop.

The real danger at this stage is that many addicts become misguided into believing that alcohol is a booster to their system and is actually good for them. At this point a vicious cycle is actually developing where both forms of addictions or dependency on alcohol is increasing and worsening each other.

Alcohol intoxication can be acute or chronic. Acute alcohol intoxication results from the intemperate, immoderate or excess consumption of alcohol in any one drinking session or throughout the course of a few hours or days. This happens quite often when individuals are in a celebratory mood and go on an alcohol binge.

The alcohol intake referred to as ‘excessive’ is not a specific quantity and varies widely between individuals and situations. Excessive, rather, refers to the intoxicating or poisonous effects on the body and naturally the concentration and quantity of alcohol ingested and the pre-existing state of health and well-being of the individual are important factors.

The toxic effect of the alcohol affects primarily the central nervous system resulting in acute dysfunction and impairment of higher nervous activities. The manifestation can range from confusion to stupor and even coma and death.

In chronic alcohol intoxication, the toxic effects develop over months and years and this is what is referred to as alcoholism. The principles are similar here with respect to the term ‘excessive’ and vary widely between individuals. Of note also is the accumulative effect of the chronic consumption.

It is important to reemphasize that alcoholism is a chronic medical condition. It is the physical state or the ill health which has resulted from alcohol abuse and addiction. All organs and systems are affected.

The primary effects are on the central nervous system, where it becomes a serious risk for degenerative brain disorders, (which cause memory loss), depression is a very common feature and the digestive system where the liver and pancreas are mainly affected.

Of note is that the effects of alcoholism, besides the negative ones on health, also have far reaching social implications.

The affected individuals often experience problems in their personal relationships, marriages and family life. Performance at work and personal finances are negatively affected and many become habitually involved in a wide range of antisocial behavior like cursing and fighting, and become more prone to committing violent crimes, including murder.

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