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Alcohol Addiction

While the ingestion of alcohol is by definition necessary to develop an alcohol addiction problem, the use of alcohol does not predict its development. The quantity, frequency and regularity of alcohol consumption required to develop an addiction problem varies greatly from person to person. In addition, although the biological mechanisms underpinning alcohol addiction are uncertain, some risk factors, including social environment, emotional health and genetic predisposition, have been identified.

Alcohol addiction is a leading cause of mortality throughout the world. It is estimated that in the United States as many as 10% of men and 3% of women may suffer from persistent problems related to the use of alcohol. Alcohol addiction affects many organ systems of the body, but perhaps most notably affected are the central nervous system and the liver.

Alcohol addiction is a term with multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions. In common and historic usage, it refers to any condition that results in the continued consumption of alcoholic beverages despite the health problems and negative social consequences it causes. Medical definitions describe alcohol addiction as a health issue which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences. It may also refer to a preoccupation with or compulsion toward the consumption of alcohol and/or an impaired ability to recognize the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption. Although not all of these definitions specify current and on-going use of alcohol as a qualifier, some do, as well as remarking on the long-term effects of consistent, heavy alcohol use, are including dependence and symptoms of withdrawal.

Many terms are applied to a drinker's relationship with alcohol. Use, misuse, heavy use, abuse, addiction, and dependence are all common labels used to describe drinking habits, but the actual meaning of these words can vary greatly depending upon the context in which they are used. Even within the medical field, the definition can vary between areas of specialization. The introduction of politics and religion further muddles the issue.

Use refers to simple use of a substance. An individual who drinks any alcoholic beverage is using alcohol. Misuse, problem use, and heavy use do not have standard definitions, but suggest consumption of alcohol beyond the point where it causes physical, social, or moral harm to the drinker. The definitions of social and moral harm are highly subjective and therefore differ from individual to individual.

When a person with an alcohol addiction problem has just stopped drinking, they think about it very often, but these thoughts disappear gradually. It is hard to say how long that will take because it is different for each person. Not being dependent on alcohol means, among other things, that you are not looking for the effects of alcohol anymore. People who drink a lot get used to alcohol. They need more each time to feel the effects. Once they stop drinking they end the cycle of habituation, but if they start drinking again, they redevelop it very quickly.

Furthermore, people who have drunk a lot and for a long time may suffer to a lesser or greater extent from a loss of control. This means they can't stick to the deal they made with themselves to only have a certain number of drinks. The first drink sets off a chain reaction, which makes the person eventually drink more and more. When a person suffers from a loss of control, they can simply not drink moderately anymore.

Just like any other drug addiction, an individual with an alcohol addiction problem has to be committed to make a change for the better. Some people stop drinking and remain sober. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. And still others cannot stop drinking for any length of time. With alcohol rehabilitation, one thing is clear: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.

Treatment for alcohol addiction works to improve self-esteem and self-worth, heal core traumas, learn life-skills, gain control over addictive patterns, and improve the health of the body, in addition to recovering from alcohol addiction. Treatment focuses on helping the individual to re-balance their lives and gain the skills they need to live a successful, satisfying life, free from alcohol addiction. Those who attend treatment find that they have more skills and confidence in creating the lives they want, complete with good relationships, a satisfying job or career, and enjoyment of day to day life.

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