Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common forms of addiction to affect Americans today. Nearly 17.6 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol addiction. This accounts for roughly 15% of the population. In the LGBT community, research studies suggest that alcohol abuse and dependence occur at higher rates than in the heterosexual population. In fact, many studies suggest that alcohol addiction occurs in the LGBT community three times as much as it does in the heterosexual population, and is estimated to occur in up to 45% of the LGBT community.

Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking accompanied by one or more of the following problems:

  • Failure to complete major work, school, or home responsibilities because of drinking
  • Drinking in situations that are physically harmful, such as while driving a car
  • Recurring alcohol-related legal charges, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically harming someone while drunk
  • Social or relationship problems that are brought on or worsened by the effects of alcohol.

Alcoholism is a disease with four main features:

  • Craving: a strong desire to drink.
  • Loss of control: inability to stop drinking once you’ve begun
  • Physical dependence: withdrawal warning signs, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after someone has stopped drinking
  • Tolerance: the need to drink larger amounts of alcohol in order to get “high”

Alcoholism can have many dangerous side effects, including an increased risk for certain cancers. It can also cause serious harm to the liver, brain, heart and other organs. Alcoholism can cause birth defects and it increases the risk of death from car accidents. Lastly, heavy drinking impairs a person’s judgment, which increases the risk of homicide and suicide.

How to Know if Someone Has a Drinking Problem

There are two patterns of drinking: early onset and late onset. Some people have been drinking excessively for many years, and over time the same amount of liquor can pack a more powerful punch. Some people develop a drinking problem later in life. Sometimes this is because of major life changes such as shifts in employment, failing health, or the death of a friend or loved one. Often these life changes cause loneliness, boredom, anxiety and depression.

Possible indicators for alcohol abuse and addiction:

  • Drinking to soothe your nerves, forget your worries, or reduce depression
  • Guzzling down drinks
  • Repeatedly having more than one drink a day
  • Lying about or trying to keep drinking habits a secret
  • Injuring yourself, or someone else, while drinking
  • Requiring more and more alcohol to get drunk
  • Feeling irritable, resentful or irrational when not drinking
  • Having medical, social or financial uncertainties caused by drinking

Information provided by the National Institutes of Health

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