Having dealt with alcoholism in my life, it scares me how up to this day people seem to be so poorly informed about this disease. One of the reasons, I think is due to its legality. There are just so many companies behind it that it wouldn’t be convenient for them to broadcast in detail all the negative aspects it can bring to your life let alone your body.
In truth, falling into an abusive behavior can be much easier than you’d think. We’re all exposed to it because how socially acceptable it is; for fun, for work, to grieve, to celebrate; it is everywhere. And though there’s nothing wrong with that, getting used to drinking more every time we have a problem, feel depressed or have anything to ‘handle’ emotionally where our tool is a drink, leads to a self-destructing spiral that can end in losing everything we hold dear.
As a disease, the only option is to get treatment, and that means going through a rehabilitation program; which will definitely help to overcome an addiction, nevertheless, the better informed we are about it, the easier it will be to spot any warning signs from our loved ones, or even ourselves.
Here are 6 essential facts on alcoholism everybody should know:
Alcohol changes your brain
One of the best traits we have as a species is our ability to adapt to new environments. We have been able to live in almost every area we’ve set our foot on. However, this amazing aspect of our existence can backfire when we train our bodies and minds to adapt to a negative environment, or in my case, chemical substances.
When we consume alcohol (or drugs) regularly, our brains assume it’s our new “environment” and start changing our connections and brain cells so that we can perform better under the influence. Just as permanent liver damage, some of the changes our bodies undergo while adapting to alcohol stay for good, and even after rehabilitation, they can cause further issues in the future.
Men and women react differently to alcohol
Because of our biological differences, alcohol is processed differently in men and women. The ratio of muscle to fat in men makes them more prompt to metabolize alcohol in a certain way that increases the chances of drinking more excessively, whereas women take longer to process the substance and have a higher risk of enduring permanent long-term damage caused by alcohol.
Of course, how we react as social individuals depends on the one hand on the type of personality we have, but on the other hand, society is constantly showing us how things become easier when we drink, how moments are more enjoyable and how not drinking at a party can actually be either because we’re lame or because we’re the elected driver, not because we rather not for any particular reason.
Alcoholism can be partially genetic
Perhaps it’s not widely known how alcoholism depends on a big proportion of our genetics. If we have a history of heavy drinking in our family, some studies claim there’s a 50% chance you could also develop an abusive behavior and have an increased tolerance to various treatment procedures.
Alcohol abuse is not the same as alcoholism
Abusing a substance doesn’t necessarily mean that we have an addiction. However, an abusive behavior can set the perfect path to develop an addiction. Alcoholism includes a series of physical changes in our brains and bodies that generate the dependence on the substance.
It’s a disease and has to be treated like one. Abusing alcohol, on the other hand, is usually a choice and can be induced by stressful situations that are affecting our day to day life in a negative manner. Being the most widely abused addictive substance in the US, we can very easily get used to having a drink to avoid dealing with stress, pain, depression or even the loss of a loved one.
Alcohol is a leading cause of death
Whether it is due to intoxication or induced accidents, alcohol remains up to this day a leading cause of death in the U.S, especially in traffic-related accidents. There are many signs that could indicate alcohol abuse is going over the edge. Spotting them at the right time can have a decisive effect on someone’s life.
Withdrawal can be dangerous
Once dependence has developed, leaving alcohol behind becomes much more challenging. In the worst cases, because of how stressed some nerve cells can get, Delirium Tremens can appear and if it is extreme, it could cause seizures. DT requires professional attention and hospitalization. When we haven’t developed an addiction so extreme, our moods can still present changes making us more irritable and easily upset.
Alcoholism is a disease not everybody is well aware of. It can sneak into our lives without being noticed and it always takes advantage of our weakest and hardest moments. It is always important to offer love and help to those who we hold dearest. A helping hand can make the difference between a life of health and happiness and a spiral of self-destruction that will rip families apart.
Having a better understanding of this disease will prepare ourselves better to deal with it in case someone we love struggles with it. Learning about it as much as we can also help prevent relapse in some ways, though it is something that happens in most cases regardless the patient.
Relapsing, especially after an uncontrolled withdrawal, doesn’t mean that the patient is willingly giving up or wants to disappoint those who are hoping for a successful recovery. Relapse is usually part of the whole process, and when it happens, showing empathy, support and tolerance will ensure that the rehabilitation program can continue in an effective way instead of push the patient back a few steps.
If you or someone you love is dealing with an alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to look for professional help, but above all, be willing to learn everything you can about the disease and always make sure to show your love and support.
If you want to ask a question or suggest any other less known aspects of alcohol abuse and addiction, feel free to leave a comment below.