By Jennifer Bailey
Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a chronic disorder characterized by compulsive, repeated, and excessive
consumption of alcohol to the extent that the individual's health, social and economic functioning is impaired.
Alcoholism has four symptoms namely craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance. Craving is a
strong urge or need to consume alcohol and loss of control is the inability to control the amount of intake of
alcohol. Tolerance can be explained as the need for increased amount of alcohol every time to feel the alcohol's
The factors that lead to alcoholism could be genetic, environmental, psychological or social. Often alcoholism
remains undetected for years.
Alcoholism does not depend on the kind of alcohol an individual consumes but it depends on the quantity, long
period of addiction and the uncontrollable need of it. Some individuals are able to recover from alcoholism easily
while there are others who may require medical assistance.
Excess alcohol or alcoholism can lead to serious health problems. Short-term effects include dizziness, nausea,
vomiting, slurred speech and impaired judgment and coordination.
Prolonged and excessive use of alcohol can lead to depression, heart failure, liver cirrhosis, damage to vital
organs, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunctions and even brain and nervous system damage.
Alcoholism has a direct effect on the liver. Alcohol effects appear within 10 minutes of consumption and are at
their peak for about 40-60 minutes. Since alcohol remains in the blood stream until the liver metabolizes it,
continuous and increased consumption of alcohol strains the liver and increases the danger of liver breakdown.
Alcoholism in pregnant women leads to birth of infants with fetal alcohol syndrome in which case the infants
suffer from mental retardation and irreversible physical abnormalities.
Various researches indicate that 53% of the men and women in the US report that one or more of their close
relatives are affected by alcoholism. 15% of the population in US constitutes problem drinkers, which means that 14
million persons are affected by alcoholism in US alone.
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