There remains much debate around the issue of alcoholism as a disease. The side of the debate you are on probably depends on whether or not you or someone you know is an alcoholic. If you have lived with an alcoholic, you probably believe alcoholism is a disease. If you have had little exposure to alcoholism, you may view it simply as a personal choice to drink too much alcohol. You group alcoholism with other excessive behaviors.

For the most part, the medical community treats alcoholism as a disease. In fact, alcoholism is categorized as a chronic and progressive disease. It can progress to a point of fatality. Alcoholics die as a result of vehicular accidents, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease among other complications.

Alcoholism is basically defined as an obsession that evolves into an uncontrollable compulsion for alcohol. There are physical symptoms that help define alcoholism as a disease. Keep in mind that alcoholism is considered a family disease because it impacts everyone living with the alcoholic. This is not a disease that causes pain only to the “patient”. It causes pain and other symptoms such as depression in everyone who loves the alcoholic.

Studies are being conducted to determine if an actual addictive gene exists that predisposes individuals to substance abuse, whether alcohol, nicotine or narcotics. If such a gene is discovered, it may confirm alcoholism as an organic disease. This means it is a latent disorder that an individual is born with, is triggered later in life and develops into a disease.

Opponents of alcoholism as a disease often site the role of environment in alcohol dependency. Two children grow up in an alcoholic family. Assume similar genetics. One child never takes a sip of alcohol. The other becomes an alcoholic like her mother. Can alcoholism be considered a disease when personal conduct and choice is the first step toward deciding to take a drink or not take a drink? The debate is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Whether it is a mental obsession or a physical need, alcoholism disease is very much a part of our culture today. If fact, we now regulate the behavior of individuals who have too much to drink. There are laws that prohibit individuals impaired by alcohol from driving. Most companies have policies against alcohol consumption during work hours, including business lunches. You can be arrested for public intoxication. These “rules” appear to support the theory of alcoholism as a personal conduct issue rather than disease. But let’s look at this matter further

Alcoholism as a choice

In the pursuit of finding an answer to the question ‘what is alcoholism’ many argue that it is a choice. Only the alcoholic can decide whether he or she takes that next drink, so it is therefore easy to suggest that it is a choice. But is this true or is that too simply put? Could it maybe be an urge, an often unstoppable urge? There is no doubt that the question “shall I have a drink” is not part of that urge. The mind becomes blank, reason has disappeared and, as if on automatic pilot, the alcoholic ends up in the liquor store or supermarket to stock up in a desperate, subconscious attempt to calm down that urge.

It is that same urge that many of us experience when we automatically answer our phones in the middle of a conversation or whilst driving the car. That same urge makes you feel that you have to check your messages when in the company of other people, and most of the cigarettes people light on a daily basis are the result of an impulsive urge. An urge is like a compulsion and is not normally met with logic but it can be triggered.

So what about the responsibility of society in making alcohol so readily available and making no attempt to stop the overwhelmingly crafty advertisements that trigger people into thinking that drinking is making you healthy looking, sociable, fun and happy. As a society we seem to have decided that the alcoholic has the choice to ignore those messages and simply can use his or her willpower to block the urge.

To decide that alcoholism is a choice means that we leave all the responsibility with the alcoholic. Instead of looking for a solution, we can wash our hands in innocence, throw our compassion out of the window and get on with our daily lives without qualms.

Alcoholism as a disease

Many people believe alcohol is a vice – some kind of moral deficiency. Why alcoholism officially qualifies as a disease is primarily because the progression of the disease is predictable and alcohol addiction has been linked to a genetic predisposition. Alcoholism is recognized by the medical community as a disease as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the World Health Organization.

Studies performed in the US, Wales, Sweden, and Australia, to name a few, indicate that one of the primary causes of alcoholism is genetic. In the Australian study for example, over 6,000 twins were participants and not only was the conclusion of the study that alcoholism is genetic, but the earlier in life the person starts drinking the more likely it is that the alcohol will kick these genes into gear, causing an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism is an illness no different than any other disease.

A person suffering with alcohol addiction for the most part will tell you that that their drinking is out of control, that they cannot stop drinking, and they know they need help. With this disease or illness comes a craving for alcohol that is all but unstoppable. No one makes the choice to become an alcoholic.

The other contributors to the disease are environment, cultural, and a person’s individual personality.

If an individual grows up in a household that promotes drinking, whether there is excessive drinking in the family or the family has a favorable view of drinking alcohol, they will be more likely to drink themselves.

In a school environment, if excessive drinking is common among a person’s friends and acquaintances and the genetic predisposition is there, the possibility of addiction is increased.

Alcohol addiction has reached crisis levels in some cultures where daily drinking is prevalent and the drinking age is lower. Rehab clinics in the UK, for instance, are experiencing a boon in clients who have attempted to find addiction help via publicly funded bodies, but have been ultimately unsucessful, usually due to demand outstripping supply of available detox facilities.

With the individual personality, those prone to depression and anxiety will be more apt to drink to alleviate these symptoms. And in combination with the alcohol genetic predisposition and an environment that encourages drinking, the possibility of developing an addiction to alcohol increases dramatically.

Maybe we should start to look at alcoholism as something that can happen to anybody. Something that can sneak up on you. Science agrees that alcohol is a depressant and a progressive drug – it can quite easily become a habit to drink on a daily basis. Whether the brain can then be damaged by the alcohol, turning the over consumption of alcohol into a mental disease or whether the gene for alcoholism is passed down through families, is not the whole story although we need to take a more serious look at that too.

But if it is not a choice, what is alcoholism then? If alcoholism is a disease, like diabetes or any other such medically accepted diseases, then prevention and rehabilitation needs to be given high priority by society.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Genetics can influence various aspects of a person’s life, like his or her behaviors to physical characteristics, genetics are responsible for nearly every human trait a person has. An example of such trait that can be passed down via genetics is a predisposition towards alcohol abuse and addiction.

Alcoholism has become one of the most prevalent diseases in the nation, with an estimated one in 12 adults suffering from it. It is estimated that about 100,000 people in the UK die every year as a result of alcohol abuse and addiction.

People that are alcoholics and have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism are far more likely to suffer from alcohol use disorder. Studies show that genetics is up to 50 percent responsible for the development of alcoholism. But different things can play a role in a person’s risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

The Influence Of Genes On Alcohol Addiction

A research carried by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 40 to 60 percent of factors that influence alcoholism are genetic. The implication is that people with a family history of alcohol addiction are up to 50 percent more likely to develop this condition than those with no genetic influences.

Another study shows that people who are predisposed to metabolize alcohol in a certain way are also at an increased risk of alcohol use disorder. And so individuals who primarily experience the pleasurable effects of alcohol rather than the negative effects have a higher likelihood of alcohol abuse and addiction.

A specific gene that determines a person’s risk of alcohol addiction hasn’t been found. But it has been found that genes can work to increase someone’s predisposition to alcoholism. The way someone responds to these genes as well as countless environmental factors are what determines whether he or she develops an alcohol use disorder.

Environmental Factors That Affect Alcoholism

An individual’s genes can account for only an estimated half of a person’s risk of developing an alcohol addiction. The environment can determine if person will have an alcohol use disorder.

Some environmental factors that can influence a persons alcoholic disposition include:

  • poverty
  • early exposure to drug or alcohol abuse
  • aggressive or violent behavior as a child
  • Inadequate parental supervision
  • access to alcohol
  • childhood abuse or trauma
  • peer pressure

A persons environment and history is believed to be the ultimate determinant of whether a person will become addicted to alcohol. Those that are genetically predisposed to alcoholism will likely experience an environmental factor that leads to actual alcohol abuse. A person us more likely to eventually develop an alcohol use disorder if there are several environmental factors.

But you can find some certain protective environmental factors that can reduce a person’s risk of alcoholism, even if he or she is genetically predisposed. Such factors can be  neighborhood resources, positive parental supervision and monitoring, and success in school.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Niw while genetics and heredity are closely related, there are some differences. A person with a genetic condition has an abnormality in a genome, while someone with a hereditary disease has inherited a genetic mutation from their parents.

Some studies indicate that alcoholism is hereditary. So that could mean that the disease would be caused by a mutation in certain genes that were passed down from a person’s parents.

Individuals that have parents who struggled with alcohol addiction are two to four times more likely to experience alcohol addiction themselves. The implication is that individuals with close family alcoholism may be more prone to inheriting the genetic mutation that contributes to alcoholism.

But it can also mean that people with close relatives who abuse alcohol grew up in an alcohol-centric environment. So an individual’s environment will ultimately influence how his or her inherited genes are expressed.

Are You At Risk For Developing Alcoholism?

Those related to people with an alcohol use disorder are at the highest risk of developing the condition themselves. When alcoholism is prevalent in that family, the individual is more likely to inherit the genetic predisposition for alcoholism.

But this does not mean that person will automatically have this condition as there are lots of preventative things that can be done to reduce the risk of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Such things include:

  • Knowing your family history of alcoholism
  • Being aware of the symptoms of alcohol abuse and taking action if any of these symptoms arise
  • Having and keeping healthy relationships
  • Having good strategies to deal with stress
  • Staying away from alcohol or limiting intake
  • Look for professional help

Now if per chance you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, seeking treatment is the best decision that can be made. There are lots of individuals that are unable to overcome an addiction to alcohol without formal treatment.

Now that alcoholism is seen as a chronic disease, many people will need to participate in support groups or other aftercare programs long after a treatment program is complete.

How much alcohol do you have to drink to be an alcoholic?

Lots of people relish drinking a few alcoholic beverages, but how much is too much? It’s a common question, especially when you’re trying to determine if your own drinking habits are worrisome. You’ll find that the limit for harmful drinking is much lower than you might imagine.

Worldwide most individuals drink beer, wine, and spirits on a regular basis. Some continue to do so without ever developing a drinking problem. Did you know that drinking at certain levels can put your health and well-being in jeopardy without becoming an alcohol abuser, alcohol dependent, or an alcoholic.

And so you might ask how much alcohol can you drink at a safe level and still be considered a low-risk drinker, how much is too much? Based on some research, less than 2% of drinkers who fall within the following guidelines ever develop alcohol use disorders.

Males: Four or Fewer Drinks Per Day

When it comes to males, low-risk alcohol consumption is considered drinking four or fewer standard drinks on any single day and less than 14 drinks during in a given week. Based on the same research, to remain low-risk, both the daily and weekly guidelines must be met.

What this means is that, if you are a man and you drink only four standard drinks per day, but you drink four every day, you are drinking 28 drinks per week. This equals double the recommended level for low-risk alcohol consumption. And so, having four drinks a day four times a week would also exceed the guidelines.

Females: Three or Fewer Drinks Per Day

Studies have indicated that women develop alcohol problems at lower levels of consumption than men. And so, the set limit for low-risk drinking is lower for women. These limits can be maintained at three or fewer standard drinks a day and no more than seven drinks per week.

So you can see that both the daily and weekly standards must be met to remain in the low-risk category. As a woman, having only two drinks a day but drink them every day, that is 14 drinks a week, or twice the recommended amount for low-risk consumption

Most adults are capable of having a drink every now and then without it becoming a problem. However, some people, for a variety of reasons, are just not able to stop drinking once they start. And once drinking becomes a habit, they feel compelled to do it every day or at least very often. Entering alcohol recovery is the best solution for this problem, but unfortunately too many alcoholics exist in a state of denial and take too long to realize they need help.

If you are worried that you have an alcohol problem, consider this a positive sign. Many alcoholics never question their habits. You at least have the self-awareness to think carefully about your behavior. Still, your drinking may not be a problem, and you may not need alcohol recovery. If you are not sure, here are some signs to look for.

  • Do you continually drink more and more? This could be a sign that your tolerance is growing, and elevated tolerance is a common sign of alcoholism.
  • Do you feel nervous or uncomfortable when you do not drink for a while? Alcohol is physically addictive, and many habitual drinkers begin to feel physical effects within a day or two of having their last drink. The symptoms may range from headache and irritability to mood disturbances and shaking.
  • Do you think too much about drinking? Try to be honest with yourself. For example, when you are at work or spending time with your family, do you often think about when you are going to have your next drink? This could be a sign you need alcohol recovery.
  • Does drinking guide your plans? For example, when going out to eat with your spouse, do you only like to go to restaurants that serve drinks? Do you consider events without alcohol to be a drag? If so, you are clearly thinking about drinking too much and may have a problem.
  • Does drinking ever interfere with your responsibilities at work? Many alcoholics become so engrossed in their habit that they cease to advance in their career, often floating by with little ambition. Over time, this can have severe monetary effects and set you back years.
  • Does drinking interfere with your home life? Households with at least one alcoholic often become rather tense. Even when there are no emotional problems or arguments, things can become unharmonious when the alcoholic’s habit begins to interfere with his or her responsibilities at home. Often, the best way to deal with this problem is to enter alcohol recovery.
  • Does your drinking cause guilt? Whether because you think you cannot stop or your drinking causes bad behavior or blackouts, it is not uncommon for alcoholics to feel guilt, especially the morning after. If this happens often, seek alcohol recovery.

You have already taken the first steps in getting help, by searching for answers to see if there is a problem. Do not back track by lying and trying to fool yourself into thinking you do not have a problem.