Alcoholism

Alcoholism  is a broad term which encompasses a number of behaviours all centred around a strong compulsion to drink alcohol.

Whether you are unable to resist alcohol every day, or have a tendency to drink very frequently, the main factors which define your alcohol abuse are:

  • You cannot resist alcohol
  • You consume it shortly after waking to counter withdrawal symptoms
  • You cannot control your alcohol consumption
  • You organise your life around drink

As alcohol misuse has a destructive effect on almost every part of your body, it is wise to seek help if you are drinking too much.

Long-term alcohol abuse can cause many serious health problems including: Cirrhosis, Pancreatitis, Heart Disease, Polyneuropathy, Peptic Ulcers, Sexual Dysfunction and Cancer.

Can you tell if you’re an alcoholic?

Some common signs that you are drinking too much include a personal sense of guilt about the amount you drink and other people commenting on your alcohol consumption.

Recommended daily intake is three to four alcohol units a day for men and two to three for women. A unit is roughly a pint of normal strength lager, a small glass of wine or a single (25ml) measure of spirits.

You can take two quick tests to see whether you are misusing alcohol — the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and the Fast Alcohol Screening Test. If you answer these tests honestly, the scores they show will identify the correct treatment you need.

How is alcoholism treated?

Treatment for alcoholism or milder forms of alcohol misuse fall into three categories: detoxification, counselling and medication.

Depending on the extent of your alcohol problems you may be able to detox at home without the help of medication from health professionals or alcoholics support groups.

The worst period will be for the first 48 hours as your body begins to adjust and the alcohol units slowly leave your body.

Drink plenty of fluids during the detox. Water or orange juice is ideal. Avoid caffeinated drinks as these affect your sleep and heighten the anxiety that alcohol withdrawal naturally causes.

After detox, you will need to be completely abstinent to beat alcoholism — which is where alcoholics find medication can also help.

Can drugs help you?

The drug Acamprosate affects a chemical in the brain called GABA which is thought to be partially responsible for causing alcohol craving.

Naltrexone helps prevent a relapse into alcohol misuse by blocking the opioid receptors in your body to stop the normal intoxicating effects of alcohol. But be warned: Naltrexone also stops painkillers such as morphine and codeine from working.

Disulfiram causes unpleasant physical reactions to alcohol if you cannot maintain abstinence, including nausea, chest pain, vomiting and dizziness.

Counselling and support groups are also important, to help you gain willpower with support from others. By listening to your friends and family and seeking medical advice you can tackle your alcohol problems and start on the road to recovery, replacing alcohol consumption with a range of healthy foods and supplements to transform your life.

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