By Aleena Khan

July 16, 2009

"O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts!" - William Shakespeare

Alcoholism is one of those social ills in society that not only affect the individual, but also the individual’s family, friends and society in general. Alcoholism does not refer to the activity of merely drinking alcohol; in fact, it refers to a chronic disorder characterized by dependence on alcohol, repeated excessive use of alcoholic beverages, and the development of withdrawal symptoms on reducing or ceasing intake.

On an individual level, alcoholism can result in a lot of health problems. These could be both mental and physical. These include acute hepatitis, cancer of the oesophagus, stomach, and other organs, and cirrhosis of the liver. Other less serious health issues such as blood pressure problems may also occur due to an increased amount of alcohol intake. Most of these are long term on one’s health, but alcoholism also has various short term effects. Most of these occur when a person is experiencing a ‘hang over’. A ‘hang over’ includes slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. A study in 2001 concluded that more than 100,000 U.S. deaths are caused by excessive alcohol consumption each year. Direct and indirect causes of death include drunk driving, cirrhosis of the liver, falls, cancer, and stroke. Also, problem drinkers spend and average of four times as many days in the hospital as non-drinkers - mostly because of drinking-related injuries. Psychiatric disorders are also common in alcoholics, especially anxiety and depression disorders, with as many as 25% of alcoholics presenting with severe psychiatric disturbances.

Across people of all ages, males are four times more likely than females to be heavy drinkers, but it is very dangerous when women continue to consume alcohol during the time of pregnancy. It may be difficult for a pregnant alcoholic to stop drinking, but she must realise that it is extremely hazardous to her child’s health. One of the most common deficiencies that occur due to alcohol consumption during pregnancy period is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, it enters the placenta freely and harms the foetus growth. Thus, the condition results in foetal alcohol syndrome. It is a serious, irreversible, lifelong health condition that affects the baby terribly. FAS is characterized by a group of problems including mental retardation, abnormal facial features, developmental problems, problems with central nervous system, and birth defects.

Why would an individual want to be dependent on something such as alcohol anyway? It does not make your problems vanish, but it only makes you forget about them temporarily. It just ends up increasing the problems you have already as it has an immense negative effect on your life and of those you interact with.

Alcoholics often say things they don’t mean and also end up doing many things they later regret. This has a major negative impact on their relationships. Alcoholics often suffer from mood swings and can be irritated and argumentative at one time and quiet and withdrawn the next. They also suffer from depression, as well as anxiety. Due to all this confusion, they resort to more drinking. This abnormal social behaviour creates problems between them and their loved ones. While being drunk, a man might beat his wife up in a fit of rage or use extremely foul language in front of his children.

Alcoholism usually also leads to unemployment as the individual is unable to perform well at work. It also may cause financial problems as a lot of money may be spent in purchasing alcoholic drinks. This, in turn, might lead to crimes such as theft and also other social ills such as gambling as a person is willing to do practically anything to be able to buy a bottle of alcohol. Having people drinking in the house is a bad influence on children and teenagers too. According to a survey in 2001, among the adult drinkers then, more than half said they had a blood relative who is or was an alcoholic or problem drinker. Alcoholism in the family may encourage children to start drinking at a young age, and they too might become dependent on alcohol in the long run. 65% of youth surveyed by the Century Council said that they got the alcohol they drink from family and friends. This proves that alcoholism is detrimental to society as a whole. Drinking at inappropriate times, and behaviour caused by reduced judgment, can lead to legal consequences, such as criminal charges for drunk driving or public disorder.

In today’s world, there is still hope for alcoholics, as there is treatment available. The first step of the treatment is for the alcoholic to actually realise that there is a problem at hand. Medically, alcoholism cannot be treated, but cravings can be decreased with the help of some pills like Nalmefene. There are lots of programs that help counsel alcoholics. These seem to be quite successful. Most alcoholics need help to recover from their disease. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives. The level of success varies from case to case, the level of commitment of the individual being the highest factor.

With treatment, one thing is clear, however: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober. There are Alcohol Rehab centres that specifically deal with people that want to stop obsessing over drinking. Alcohol detoxification is another option. It is a process often necessary when a person has been consuming alcohol for long periods of time. In order to live sober, ever alcoholic must endure a detox period. Alcohol detoxification can be uncomfortable, and alcoholics can often be plagued by withdrawal symptoms. It is strongly recommended that detox be done under the direct supervision of an alcohol treatment facility or sober living home. Once the detoxification process is complete, the process of psychological rehabilitation begins. This may include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, therapy, and 1 on 1 meeting. Support groups seem to be most beneficial towards the final stages.

The problem of alcohol is something that has managed to affect people of all ages, racial, economic and ethnic backgrounds. It is a great problem in Western countries, but no less of a problem in the countries of the East. Alcohol seems to have managed to become a part of people’s everyday lives globally, irrespective of their cultural and moral values.


Make sure a teenage friend’s alcoholism is stopped in its tracks by bringing him or her to a Teen Alcohol Addiction Treatment center.

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