Is Alcoholism a Disease? Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Additionally, addicts experience strained relationships with their families, which can take years of recovery to rebuild. Brain scans show the impact of chronic alcohol use, confirming cell damage in the brains of alcoholics. Excessive drinking can damage the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for executive function and decision-making.

When alcoholism and other chronic diseases aren’t being properly treated and managed, relapse is possible. While you can’t necessarily cure diabetes, you can keep it under control with medications and lifestyle choices like exercise and a healthy diet. If you stopped doing these things, your diabetes would be out of control, and there would be adverse consequences. In many cases, it is a combination of genetics and environmental risk factors, such as stress or trauma, that leads to the development of an alcohol use disorder.

Am I an Alcoholic?

The severity of the AUD depends on how many of the symptoms they have. A hit on six or more questions can be considered a severe case of AUD. We need to bring the truth about alcoholism from the darkness into the light. Some people must stay six to twelve months in therapeutic communities (TCs), which offer highly structured programming and support for community reintegration. If a blood test reveals that the red blood cells have increased in size, it could be an indication of long-term alcohol misuse.

is alcoholism a disease

Between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol use resulted in more than 140,000 fatalities and 3.6 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually in the United States, cutting people’s lives short by an average of 26 years. A disease is a condition that harms the body’s normal functioning. According to this definition, alcoholism is a disease because it impairs an individual’s everyday life and causes disruptive symptoms of an illness, mental and physical. Since alcoholism is considered a disease, let’s take a closer look at how it affects the mind and body. For many people, alcohol seems inextricably linked with a social life. Friends gather for after-work drinks, spouses have cocktails together for “date nights” or some may just be in the habit of ending the day with a beer or a glass of wine—or two—or more.

Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment

These include increased heart rate, sweating, anxiety, tremors, nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, and insomnia. In more severe cases, people may also have seizures or hallucinations. Additionally, sober house some people argue someone can overcome alcoholism without treatment. While this might be true for early abusers, those with a chronic alcohol addiction need intensive treatment.

Is it OK to just stop drinking?

Please note, when someone who has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time suddenly stops drinking, the body can go into a painful or even potentially life-threatening process of withdrawal. Symptoms can include nausea, rapid heart rate, seizures, or other problems.

Your treatment setting will depend on your stage of recovery and the severity of your illness. You may need inpatient medical (hospital), residential rehabilitation (rehab), outpatient intensive therapy or outpatient maintenance. Mild and early-intervention cases may only be problematic for a period of time, but severe cases are often a lifelong struggle. Research has shown how addiction changes the areas of the brain in charge of judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and controlling behavior. Those changes can lead to a good student flunking out, a wife lying about draining the family savings account or an overdose in a grocery parking lot, with kids watching from their car seats. To learn more about alcohol treatment options and search for quality care near you, please visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.

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