Is Alcoholism Considered A Disease?

Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that develops gradually over time. It can be difficult to pinpoint when social drinking progresses into problematic alcohol abuse. Licensed medical professionals use criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to find out whether a person has alcohol use disorder and determine its severity. Others argue that addiction is not a disease because some people with addiction get better without treatment. People with a mild substance use disorder may recover with little or no treatment.

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Why Is Alcoholism Considered A Chronic Disease?

Jellinek, began national acceptance of the disease concept. It was Jellinek’s self-proclaimed “scientific” study that opened the door for the medical community’s support.

  • Alcohol use disorder may be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, and every category has its own symptoms and side effects.
  • Major medical agencies and organizations disagree about which diseases are considered chronic, according to a 2016 article published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
  • They need rehabilitation and they need to see the light because their entire life is lying in front of them.
  • Everyone makes a choice about using drugs or taking a drink for the first time.
  • Women who have alcohol use disorder may benefit from treatment with medications and behavioral therapies, and in general, discontinuation of alcohol consumption during pregnancy improves outcomes for the baby.
  • Al-Anon is an international mutual support program for people impacted by a loved one’s drinking.

Over time, continued release of these chemicals causes changes in the brain systems involved in reward, motivation and memory. The brain tries to get back to a balanced state by minimizing its reaction to those rewarding chemicals or releasing stress hormones. As a result, a person may need to use increasing amounts of the substance just to feel closer to normal. The individual may experience intense desires or cravings for the substance and will continue to use it despite harmful or dangerous consequences. The person may also prefer the substance to other healthy pleasures and may lose interest in normal life activities. In the most chronic form of the disease, a severe substance use disorder can cause a person to stop caring about their own or others’ well-being or survival.

What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol Use Disorder?

Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer. It’s common for people with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to have problems with alcohol or other substances. If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important. Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease like other chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and others; Alcoholism has no cure, and it can get worse or improve and carries a risk of relapse.

Is Alcoholism Considered A Disease?

There are certain times when people drink too much at social gatherings, and that is often the custom at parties. The production of this chemical often reinforces behaviors, both healthy and unhealthy. If the result of a particular behavior is a rush of dopamine, the person exhibiting the behavior is likely to repeat it to feel that rush. With AUD the brain loses the ability to distinguish between dopamine rewards for healthy behavior and rewards for drug or alcohol use, leading to increased substance abuse. Uncontrollable alcohol cravings lead to mental health issues, in this stage, such as irritability, aggression, depression, and anxiety. The issues that began in the problematic drinking stage evolve in this stage to further affect the user’s life, relationships, and overall health. “This explains why substance use disorders are said to involve compromised self-control,” the report said.

So, Why Is Alcoholism Considered A Chronic Disease?

Kentucky, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Indiana are some of the states that are witnessing very high levels of young people becoming victims of alcoholic liver cirrhosis. It means that although nobody asked no one to get addicted to alcohol but still young people especially in Indiana are falling prey to this dreaded addiction. The long-term effects of alcoholism can be devastating and even fatal. Many people Is Alcoholism Considered A Disease? struggling with alcohol abuse face legal and financial problems. Additionally, addicts experience strained relationships with their families, which can take years of recovery to rebuild. Binges are defined as drinking more than four alcoholic drinks in two hours for women, and five alcoholic drinks in one sitting for men. However, there is no guarantee that binges will lead to alcohol use disorder.

  • Like many other substance use disorders, alcohol use disorder is a chronic and sometimes relapsing condition that reflects changes in the brain.
  • Jellinek’s Stages of AddictionBut, these stages are based on a corrupt study that the author, himself, later refuted.
  • Over-consumption literally changes brain chemistry, and as tolerance to alcohol increases, the person must use more and more to feel the same effects, further damaging both the body and brain.
  • “This explains why substance use disorders are said to involve compromised self-control,” the report said.
  • It has previously been categorized as a personality disorder, but in the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it was identified as a mental health disorder.

Alcohol abuse can begin as a maladaptive coping mechanism for the untreated symptoms of a mental illness such as depression or anxiety. Rather than abating the symptoms of an existing disorder long-term, AUD usually creates more mental health-related issues as it progresses. These critics hold that by removing some of the stigma and personal responsibility the disease concept actually increases alcoholism and drug abuse and thus the need for treatment. No matter what stage of alcoholism you are in, the good news is there are options available to you to get the help that you need. The first step in the process of getting help for alcoholism is to enter into a detox program.

When Was Alcoholism Officially Recognized As A Mental Illness?

This is called building up a tolerance to alcohol and it causes drinkers to consume larger amounts to feel the same euphoria they once did. The problem is the alcoholic’s mental obsession with alcohol is much more subtle than a song playing in his mind. All he knows is he suddenly has an urge to take a drink—a physical compulsion to drink.

Is Alcoholism Considered A Disease?

However, that logic doesn’t mean that alcoholism isn’t a disease. There are a few aftercare programs available after you finish treatment. These groups can help you abstain from alcohol long-term and prevent relapse. It is important to consult a practitioner before quitting alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms may be severe and result in relapse or overdose.

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They spend much of their time figuring out how to obtain it, drinking it, and recovering from its effects. Everyone and everything around them suffer the consequences of their actions in one form or another. Alcoholism is considered a disease that progresses in three stages, starting with problematic drinking and ending in obsessive alcohol abuse. Similar to widely-known mental health disorders, alcoholism makes an appearance in the 5th and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Alcoholism, or alcohol addiction, is also referred to as Alcohol Use Disorder . Other types of brain scans have revealed that alcohol damages parts of the nervous system and the brain stem, causing issues with problem-solving and emotional regulation.

Is Alcoholism Considered A Disease?

Addiction is defined as a disease by most medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. It’s always wise to nip the problem as and when you see it. Since bad habits are being picked up at an early age, won’t it be really sane to talk and educate our children about the consequences of consuming alcohol before they are actually exposed to bad things? In most cases, it all would start with a single drink and end on the deathbed.

Scientists don’t know why some people can successfully quit using drugs on their own, and others can’t. Alcohol Use Disorder also involves some characteristics common to addiction, but not typically found with most other chronic diseases. Alcohol or drug addictions affect the pleasure, reward, and motivation systems of the brain. Prolonged use of the addictive substance alters brain chemistry, leading to physical, emotional, mental, and social dysfunction.


Everyone makes a choice about using drugs or taking a drink for the first time. You don’t have a choice about how your brain reacts, however.

Over the long- or medium-term, excessive drinking can significantly alter the levels of these brain chemicals. This causes the body to crave alcohol in order to feel good and avoid feeling bad. In the past, a person with this condition was referred to as an “alcoholic.” However, this is increasingly seen as an unhelpful and negative label. Health professionals now say that a person has an alcohol use disorder .

In addition, treatment for alcohol abuse involves both physical and psychological components. The initial and early decisions to use substances are based in large part on a person’s free or conscious choice, often influenced by their culture and environment. Once the brain has been changed by addiction, that choice or willpower becomes impaired.

Problematic Drinking

At this point, the drinker has become ever more dependent on alcohol both physically and psychologically. This is also when mental health issues start to kick in, such as feelings of anxiety, depression, aggression, and irritability.

What Is Alcoholism

The risk of developing alcoholism depends on many factors, such as environment. Those with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop it themselves (Enoch & Goldman, 2001); however, many individuals have developed alcoholism without a family history of the disease. Since the consumption of alcohol is necessary to develop alcoholism, the availability of and attitudes towards alcohol in an individual’s environment affect their likelihood of developing the disease. Current evidence indicates that in both men and women, alcoholism is 50–60% genetically determined, leaving 40-50% for environmental influences.