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Defining Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

by James Heller 26. March 2009 11:58
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

For the common person, the terms “alcoholism” or “alcoholic” have come to describe people who drink too much on more than one occasion, or at inappropriate times.  In fact, there are specific medical definitions for alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

This common misconception can cause a delay in seeking alcohol treatment when drinking problems impact a family.  The problem drinker will likely excuse the behavior and attempt to disconnect alcohol from any problems.  Without the facts, family members can’t know that alcohol treatment is available to help break the problem cycle.

It is important that more people know what constitutes alcohol abuse and alcoholism (alcohol dependence), and the differences between them.  Also, there is hope because treatment is available for the earliest stages of alcohol abuse and all through the most acute alcohol dependence.  

In each case, outpatient and residential treatment is available at Tarzana Treatment Centers.  For alcoholism, alcohol detox through medical detoxification is needed to cleanse the body of its physical dependence.

The following comparison is from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by 1 or more of the following problems: (1) failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities because of drinking; (2) drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery; (3) recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and (4) having social or relationship problems that are caused by or worsened by the effects of alcohol.

Alcoholism (alcohol dependence) is a more severe pattern of drinking that includes the problems of alcohol abuse plus persistent drinking in spite of obvious physical, mental, and social problems caused by alcohol. Also typical are (1) loss of control—inability to stop drinking once begun; (2) withdrawal symptoms (symptoms associated with stopping drinking such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety); and (3) tolerance (needing increased amounts of alcohol in order to feel drunk).

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  Portions of the article above were found at http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/295/17/2100.pdf among others of equal informational and educational quality.

Alcohol and the Human Body

by James Heller 24. March 2009 15:09

April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.


There are very specific symptoms that result in a diagnosis of the chronic and terminal disease known as alcohol dependence or “alcoholism”.  And alcohol abuse has its own set of criteria for diagnosis.

When it comes to issues related to alcohol, the general public is either unaware or misinformed due to many factors.  This is mainly because people tend to only show real interest in the subject when alcohol has affected their own life.   And by that time, due to the emotional toll, the facts that explain the nature of the disease may seem unimportant.

The answer may be to go back to the basic effects alcohol has on the human body.  To understand alcohol abuse and dependence, it helps to know what happens when a person drinks alcohol.  

The Immediate Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. The absorption rate depends on the amount and type of food in your stomach. For example, high carbohydrate and high fat foods lessen the absorption rates. A carbonated alcoholic drink, like champagne, will be absorbed faster than a non-carbonated drink.
The effects of alcohol may appear within 10 minutes and peak at approximately 40 - 60 minutes. Alcohol stays in the bloodstream until it is broken down by the liver. If a person consumes alcohol at a faster rate than the liver can break it down, the blood alcohol concentration level rises.
Each state has its own legal definition for alcohol intoxication, which is defined by blood alcohol concentration. The legal limit usually falls between 0.08 and 0.10 in most states. Different levels lead to different effects:

  • 0.05 -- reduced inhibitions
  • 0.10 -- slurred speech
  • 0.20 -- euphoria and motor impairment
  • 0.30 -- confusion
  • 0.40 -- stupor
  • 0.50 -- coma
  • 0.60 -- respiratory paralysis and death
Alcohol depresses your breathing rate, heart rate, and the control mechanisms in your brain. The effects include:
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Less ability to drive and perform complex tasks
  • Prolonged reaction time
  • Reduced attention span
  • Reduced inhibitions, which may lead to embarrassing behavior
  • Slower thought processes

If a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol can adversely affect the developing fetus, causing birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome (a devastating disorder marked by mental retardation and behavioral problems).

 

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The article above was found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001944.htm among others of equal informational and educational quality.