Alcoholism

This essay has a total of 741 words and 4 pages.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism

Alcoholism, chronic and usually progressive illness involving the excessive
inappropriate ingestion of ethyl alcohol, whether in the form of familiar
alcoholic beverages or as a constituent of other substances. Alcoholism is
thought to arise from a combination of a wide range of physiological,
psychological, social, and genetic factors. It is characterized by an emotional
and often physical dependence on alcohol, and it frequently leads to brain
damage or early death. Some 10 percent of the adult drinkers in the United
States are considered alcoholics or at least they experience drinking problems
to some degree. More males than females are affected, but drinking among the
young and among women is increasing. Consumption of alcohol is apparently on the
rise in the United States, countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, and many European nations. This is paralleled by growing evidence of
increasing numbers of alcohol-related problems in other nations, including the
Third World.

Development

Alcoholism, as opposed to merely excessive or irresponsible drinking, has been
variously thought of as a symptom of psychological or social stress or as a
learned, maladaptive coping behavior. More recently, and probably more
accurately, it has come to be viewed as a complex disease entity in its own
right. Alcoholism usually develops over a period of years. Early and subtle
symptoms include placing excessive importance on the availability of alcohol.
Ensuring this availability strongly influences the person's choice of associates
or activities. Alcohol comes to be used more as a mood-changing drug than as a
foodstuff or beverage served as a part of social custom or religious ritual.
Initially, the alcoholic may demonstrate a high tolerance to alcohol, consuming
more and showing less adverse effects than others. Subsequently, however, the
person begins to drink against his or her own best interests, as alcohol comes
to assume more importance than personal relationships, work, reputation, or even
physical health. The person commonly loses control over drinking and is
increasingly unable to predict how much alcohol will be consumed on a given
occasion or, if the person is currently abstaining, when the drinking will
resume again. Physical addiction to the drug may occur, sometimes eventually
leading to drinking around the clock to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Effects

Alcohol has direct toxic as well as sedative effects on the body, and failure to
take care of nutritional and other physical needs during prolonged periods of
excessive drinking may further complicate matters. Advanced cases often require
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