Alcoholism is the most severe type of drinking problem. There is no absolute number of drinks per day or quantity of alcohol that defines alcoholism. Rather, it is defined by how a person’s body reacts to alcohol and how the person behaves and thinks when he or she drinks.
Alcoholism is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:
1] Craving- a strong need or urge to drink;
2] Loss of control- not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun;
3] Physical dependence- withdrawal symptoms; and
4] Tolerance- the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”
An alcoholic has come to rely on alcohol physically, psychologically and emotionally. About 30% of them are able to abstain from alcohol permanently without the help of formal treatment or self-help program. It is clear that the more sober days you have, the greater the chance that you will remain sober. Another motivating fact: remaining sober can increase life expectancy by 15 or more years.
Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain the pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes that put people at risk for alcoholism. Your friends, the amount of stress in your life, and how readily available alcohol is also are factors that may increase your risk for alcoholism.
Sources: Everyday Health, 11/30/2008
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1/14/2009