‘What is Alcoholism? ’ – It may sound like a funny question, though the answer is rather grave. Alcoholism is defined as a chronic illness making the human body dependent on the consumption of alcohol. The individual who is addicted to alcohol, that is, the alcoholic, may face problems with relationships, work, and finances. Other health problems may also accompany alcoholism (“Definition: Alcoholism”). Nevertheless, the alcoholic stays “obsessed with alcohol” before measures can be taken to resolve the problem (“Definition: Alcoholism”).
Those that are not “obsessed with alcohol” but suffer social and/or health problems because of excessive drinking are not known as alcoholics, however (“Definition: Alcoholism”). Such people are suffering from “alcohol abuse,” a condition in which the individual does not completely lose control over his or her consumption of alcohol (“Definition: Alcoholism”). Even though alcoholism is more severe as a disorder than alcohol abuse, both are considered treatable (“Definition: Alcoholism”).
In fact, there are various treatments available, for example, medications, “self-help groups,” in addition to counseling and psychotherapy to provide continual support to the afflicted until they have fully recovered from their addiction to alcohol (“Definition: Alcoholism”). Alcoholics do not only feel addicted to alcohol so much so that they lose control over their alcohol consumption, but they also develop “tolerance” for alcohol (“FAQs for the General Public”). What is more, they experience “withdrawal symptoms” if they try to stop drinking (“FAQs for the General Public”).
These symptoms may include excessive sweating, nausea, and trembling (“FAQs for the General Public”). All the same, if individuals that are dependent on alcohol do not get treatment for their problem, they may develop cancer, or their brains, livers and other bodily organs may suffer damage. Female alcoholics may give birth to infants with deformities. Furthermore, alcoholism increases the risks of injuries, suicide, car accidents, as well as homicide, simply because alcohol is a mind-altering substance (“FAQs for the General Public”).
Evidence from research reveals that at least thirteen percent of adults in the United States may suffer from either alcohol abuse or alcoholism at some point in their lives. Research has also shown that alcoholism may be inherited (“Alcoholism”). Psychologists are convinced that sociocultural factors in addition to emotional and/or psychological problems may cause alcoholism in cases where it is not an inherited illness (Zimberg, Wallace, and Blume 4).
The prevalence of dependence on alcohol “declines with increasing age,” perhaps because individuals who experience the awful symptoms of alcohol dependence in their youth realize the seriousness of the problem (Thompson, Lande, and Kalapatapu). Thompson, Lande, and Kalapatapu explain that the prevalence of alcoholism is greater among people that are less educated and belong to lower socioeconomic groups. Moreover, men are at high risk for alcoholism, although women experience the symptoms of alcoholism in greater severity than men (Thompson, Lande, and Kalapatapu).
Because the risk for alcoholism decreases with age as alcoholism starts to appear as a problem rather than something to joke about, alcohol consumption among the youth is studied in considerable depth in search of solutions to prevent these problems. It has been found that despite regulation, “underage college students find it easy to obtain alcohol and are more likely to binge drink than their legal-age peers” (“Study finds alcohol control policies deter underage drinking”).
As a matter of fact, binge drinking and drug use are very common among young adults, including college students. Young people also face terrible consequences of substance abuse with falling grades, drunken driving accidents, sexual harassment, and violence (Bennett, Miller, and Woodall). Bennett, Miller, and Woodall sought to examine the patterns and correlates of drinking among college students, in addition to binge drinking, underage drinking, and substance-related negative consequences.
The researchers had hypothesized that with students consuming a greater number of substances, their problem patterns of drinking would increase. In addition, students who use a greater number of substances would experience more substance-related negative consequences (Bennett, Miller, and Woodall). The results of their study revealed that all students do not have to suffer because of drinking. Instead, the amount of trouble caused by drinking is directly related to the frequency of alcohol use.
Further, the study revealed that there are ethnic differences with regards to drinking among college students. Hispanic students reported more binge drinking, while non-Hispanic, nonwhite students reported higher rates of abstinence to the researchers. Lastly, the researchers found that drug use in combination with alcohol increases the likelihood of problem drinking behavior and also the negative consequences of substance abuse (Bennett, Miller, and Woodall).
Given that young people are at increased risk for alcoholism, Montgomery, Foley, and Wolfson have also conducted a study on the subject. The researchers sought to understand the differences in state policies and community programs to address the problem of underage drinking. According to the authors, compliance checks on underage drinking in the United States involve the use of underage decoys sent by law enforcement agencies to attempt to purchase tobacco and alcohol from different shops.
Another program known as Cops in Shops deploys undercover cops in retail outlets to detect and cite youth attempting to purchase alcohol. Relating the implementation of alcohol compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs to state level policies, agency resources, and community demographics, the results of their study revealed that the Cops in Shops program is not popular enough. This is because compliance checks also control tobacco use among underage consumers, thereby using community resources more effectively. The Cops in Shops program is more expensive for most communities.
However, communities that use special community policing units are more likely to use the Cops in Shops programs seeing that these communities are spending more on policing in any case (Montgomery, Foley, and Wolfson). As may be expected, in the case of alcoholism, prevention is better than cure. Even so, there are those that argue for reducing the drinking age from 21 to 18 in the United States. According to them, individuals at the age of 18 feel that they are smart enough to evade the law against underage drinking considering the fact that they are permitted to make “life and death decisions” by serving the U.
S. military – also at the age of 18 (Parker). What is more, if individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 were allowed to freely “purchase, consume or possess alcohol,” they would not feel the need to drink to excess, thereby getting themselves into trouble whenever alcohol is easily available to them (“Lower the U. S. Legal Drinking Age to 18”). In 1997, a student of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology drank himself to death at a fraternity house. Perhaps this would not have occurred if alcohol was freely available to the student.
Since United States citizens at the age of 18 are allowed to vote, perform jury duty, and go to war, they should also be trusted to freely drink at this age (“Lower the U. S. Legal Drinking Age to 18”). Then again, anybody who consumes alcohol may develop alcoholism at some point in his or her life. According to an article published in a scientific journal, all underage consumers of alcohol cannot be expected to behave in the same way in any case. In other words, all underage consumers of alcohol cannot be expected to display problem behavior (Lanza and Collins).
While this is true, statistics display a rather scary picture for consumers of alcohol. The fact that individuals can become dependent on alcohol and also experience severe health problems because of alcoholism is enough to silence those that argue for the reduction of drinking age in the United States. Still, even those that drink only after they have come of age may develop alcoholism. Once such individuals or their loved ones have realized that alcohol consumption is harming their lives, medical help must be sought (“Alcoholism”).
Doctors traditionally use the “TAGE questionnaire” or the “CAGE questionnaire” to understand the severity of alcohol dependence (“Alcoholism”). Psychiatrists may recommend exploratory, social skills, or supportive therapy for the problem (Dombeck). Medical doctors, on the other hand, may recommend “self-care at home” with physicians and nurses that are trained in helping patients manage withdrawal symptoms and also dealing with other health problems related to alcoholism (“Alcoholism”). Rehabiliation and detoxification are other methods of treating alcohol dependence.
Desulfiram and naltrexone are commonly used medicines to treat the problem (“Alcoholism”). Of course, a patient of alcoholism may be recommended both medical and psychotherapeutic treatment at the same time. Because alcoholism alters brain chemistry, oft leading to depression, this may be necessary (Thompson, Lande, and Kalaptatapu). Regardless of whether the causes of alcohol dependence are biological, psychological or sociocultural, however, the fact remains that efforts need to be taken to prevent the problem. It is not correct to reduce the drinking age to 18.
On a similar note, efforts may be taken in future to reduce the sale of alcohol to frequent buyers. If this is not viable, education about the harms of alcohol must definitely be made freely available to all. Works Cited “Alcoholism. ” EMedicineHealth. 2009. 1 Mar 2009. <http://www. emedicinehealth. com/alcoholism/article_em. htm>. Bennett, Melanie E. , Joseph E. Miller, and W. Gill Woodall. “Drinking, Binge Drinking, and Other Drug Use Among Southwestern Undergraduates: Three-Year Trends. ” American Journal of Alcohol Abuse (1999), 25(2), pp. 331–350.
“Definition: Alcoholism. ” Mayo Clinic. 8 May 2008. 1 Mar 2009. <http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/alcoholism/DS00340>. Dombeck, Mark. “Psychotherapy Overview for Alcohol and Substance Abuse. ” Mental Help. 2009. 1 Mar 2009. <http://www. mentalhelp. net/poc/view_doc. php? type=doc&id=8093&cn=14>. “FAQs for the General Public. ” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Feb 2007. 1 Mar 2009. <http://www. niaaa. nih. gov/FAQs/General-English/>. Lanza, Stephanie T. , and Linda M. Collins. “A Mixture Model of Discontinuous Development in
Heavy Drinking from Ages 18 to 30: The Role of College Enrollment. ” Journal of Studies on Alcohol (1 Jul 2006). “Lower the U. S. Legal Drinking Age to 18. ” 2007. 1 Mar 2009. <http://www. petitiononline. com/AD793/petition. html>. Montgomery, Jacob M. , Kristie Long Foley, and Mark Wolfson. “Enforcing the minimum drinking age: state, local and agency characteristics associated with compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs. ” Addiction (2006), Vol. 101, pp. 223–231. Parker, Jennifer. “Group Stirs Debate on Legal Drinking Age.
” ABC News. 9 Oct 2007. 1 Mar 2009. <http://abcnews. go. com/Politics/story? id=3708133&page=1>. “Study finds alcohol control policies deter underage drinking. ” The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory and Application (Apr 2003). Thompson, Warren, R. Gregory Lande, and Raj K. Kalaptatapu. “Alcoholism. ” EMedicine. 19 Aug 2008. 1 Mar 2009. <http://emedicine. medscape. com/article/285913-overview>. Zimberg, Sheldon, John Wallace, and Shiela B. Blume. Practical Approaches to Alcoholism Psychotherapy. New York: Springer, 1985.