Alcoholism Disease


Alcoholism is a disease that has become a major problem throughout many parts of the world.

Paradoxically, the more "developed" and technologically advanced that a nation becomes, the more it appears to be vulnerable to the societal and personal drinking problems that are directly or indirectly caused by alcoholism disease.

Please continue reading to learn more about the damaging, destructive, and debilitating consequences of alcoholism and the unfortunate alcohol-related problems suffered by most chronic alcoholics.

The Experience of Drinking Alcohol

For most people who drink, alcohol is a pleasant experience, especially when they are engaged in social and recreational activities.

Not only this, but under most circumstances, drinking in moderation is not harmful for most adults.


A relatively large number of individuals, nevertheless, cannot drink any alcoholic beverages because of the wide assortment of alcohol drinking problems they experience when they ingest alcohol.

In fact, according to current research, approximately 14 million Americans abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent.

This statistic is so important that it is worth repeating: roughly 14 million Americans engage in problem drinking.

Problems With Drinking. Furthermore, according to recent alcoholism research, it has been discovered that approximately 53 per cent of adults in the United States have stated that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem.

Devastating Consequences of Alcoholism

Alcohol Drinking Problems. The negative effects of alcoholism disease are not only serious, but in many cases, fatal.

For instance, excessive drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, such as cancer of the esophagus, liver, throat, colon, larynx, rectum, and the kidneys.

In addition, heavy, chronic drinking can also lead to problems with the immune system, harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant, cirrhosis of the liver, and brain damage.

Moreover, drinking increases the risk of death from motor vehicle accidents and alcohol-related injuries in the workplace and in recreational activities.

Not only this, but homicides and suicides are more likely to committed by individuals who have been drinking.

In basic economic terms, alcohol drinking problems and issues in the United States cost society roughly $200 billion per year.

In human terms, however, the cost of the following alcohol-related problems with drinking cannot be calculated: failed health, broken homes, child abuse, illnesses, destroyed lives, wife battering, injuries, and fatalities.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Many individuals think that alcoholism disease and alcohol abuse are the same. Although both concepts are associated with alcohol drinking problems and, as a result, are similar, they are not the same.

Alcohol abuse, unlike alcoholism, does not necessarily include loss of control due to drinking, physical dependence, or does not usually entail an extremely strong desire for alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following problems with drinking within a twelve-month period of time:

  • Continued drinking in spite of ongoing relationship problems that are the result of drinking.

  • Experiencing recurring alcohol-related legal problems. Examples include getting arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, for damaging someone's property, or for physically hurting someone while drunk.

  • Drinking in situations that can result in physical injury. Examples include driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

  • Failure to attend to important responsibilities at work, home, or school.

A Definition of Alcoholism

Also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, alcoholism disease is a progressive degenerative medical condition that includes the following symptoms:

  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking over time or on any given occasion.

  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms when problem drinker stops drinking after a period of excessive drinking. Such symptoms include: anxiety, sweating, nausea, and "the shakes."

  • Tolerance: The need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol in order to "feel the buzz" or to "get high."

  • Craving: A strong and continuing compulsion or need to drink.

The Four Stages of Alcoholism

Perhaps the most logical and informative way to discuss alcoholism disease and alcohol drinking problems is to focus on the classic alcoholic behaviors in the four stages of alcoholism.

The First Stage of Alcoholism

In the first stage of alcoholism, drinking is no longer social but becomes a means of emotional escape from tension, problems, stress, and inhibitions.

Simply put, early in the disease the person with alcohol drinking problems starts to depend on the "mood altering" aspects of alcohol.

Another characteristic of the first stage of alcoholism disease is that a gradual increase in tolerance develops, meaning that increasing amounts of alcohol are needed in order to feel a "buzz" or to get "high."

The following represents some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, drinking problems, and the effects of alcoholism suffered by problem drinkers in the first stage of alcoholism:

  • Lack of recognition by the person that he or she is in the early stages of a progressive illness

  • An ability to drink great amounts of alcohol without any apparent impairment

  • A conscious effort to seek out more drinking opportunities

  • Drinking is not social but a psychological escape from stress and problems

  • Gross Drinking Behavior - more frequent drinking of greater amounts

  • The use of alcohol as a way to forget problems or to "mellow out"

  • Increasing tolerance

  • Boasting and a "big shot" complex

The Second Stage of Alcoholism

In the second stage of alcoholism disease, the need to drink becomes more intense. Frequently during this stage, the individual with the drinking problem starts to drink earlier in the day.

As tolerance increases, moreover, the person starts to drink because of his or her dependence on alcohol, rather than because of emotional stress and tension relief.

Finally, in this stage, while the "loss of control" does not yet manifest itself on a regular basis, it is, nevertheless noticed by others such as co-workers, family members, or friends.

The following list characterizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, the effects alcoholism, and drinking problems in the second stage of alcoholism disease.

  • Blaming problems on others and on things external to themselves

  • Denial

  • Chronic hangovers

  • Drinking because of dependence rather than for stress relief

  • Feelings of guilt and shame

  • More frequent blackouts

  • Increasing physical problems

  • Sporadic loss of control

  • Sneaking extra drinks before social events

  • Increasing tolerance

  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking

The Third Stage of Alcoholism

In the third stage of alcoholism, the loss of control becomes more pronounced, meaning that the person with the drinking problem is frequently unable to drink according to his or her intentions.

For instance, once the person has had the first drink, he or she can no longer control what will happen, even though the intention might have been to have only one or two drinks.

In addition, during this stage of the disease, the individual with the drinking problem usually starts to experience serious work-related, financial, relationship, and possibly, legal problems.

Furthermore, during this stage, the problem drinker starts to avoid family and friends and experiences a loss of interest in things that used to be fun or important.

Also typical during this stage are "eye-openers," that is, drinks that are taken whenever the person awakens.

Eye-openers are usually taken to quiet the feelings of remorse the drinker suffers after a period of time without having an alcoholic beverage, to lessen a hangover, or to "calm the nerves."

The following symbolizes some of the drinking problems, classic alcoholic behaviors, and the effects of alcoholism experienced by problem drinkers in the third stage of alcoholism disease:

  • Unreasonable resentments

  • Eye-openers

  • An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one's self and to others

  • Loss of willpower

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Aggressive and grandiose behavior

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be important

  • Avoidance of family and friends

  • The start of physical deterioration

  • Loss of control has become a pattern

  • Neglect of necessities such as food or shelter

  • Half-hearted attempts at seeking medical aid

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Serious financial, relationship, and work-related problems

  • Increasing tremors

  • Frequent violent or destructive behavior

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Problems with the law (such as DUIs)

  • Changes in friendships, such as associating only with friends who drink

The Fourth Stage of Alcoholism

The fourth and final stage of alcoholism disease is typified by a chronic loss of control. In the earlier stages of the disease, the person who engaged in problem drinking may have been successful in maintaining a job.

Now, however, since drinking starts earlier in the day and typically continues throughout the day, few, if any, full-time jobs can be maintained under such circumstances.

Additionally, in the earlier stages of the disease, the alcoholic had a choice whether he or she would take the first drink.

That is, after taking the first drink, the alcoholic typically lost all control and would then continue drinking.

In the last stage of alcoholism, on the other hand, alcoholics no longer have a choice: they must drink in order to function.

The following list represents some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, drinking problems, and the effects of alcoholism in the fourth stage of alcoholism disease:

  • Moral deterioration

  • The "DTs"

  • Persistent remorse

  • The collapse of the alibi system

  • Unreasonable resentments and hostility toward others

  • The possibility of alcoholic psychosis

  • Impaired thinking

  • Loss of tolerance for alcohol

  • Indefinable fears

  • Continual loss of control

  • Devaluation of personal relationships

  • An obsession with drinking

  • Nameless fears and anxieties such as feelings of impending doom or destruction

  • Benders, or lengthy intoxications

  • "The shakes"

  • Vague spiritual desires

  • The realization of being out of control

  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

Conclusion: Alcoholism Disease

From the information articulated above, it can be concluded that the behavior typically manifested by problem drinkers in the four stages of alcoholism disease paint a bleak picture for those who are alcohol dependent.

It may indeed be the case that learning about the destructive effects, the dangerous drinking problems, and the degenerative nature of alcoholism disease may not make a much of an impact on most of those who already suffer from chronic alcoholism.

Indeed, unless the alcoholic accepts the fact that he or she has a drinking problem and truly wants to quit drinking, the best treatment in the world will accomplish little, if anything that can "help.

It is hoped, however, that by exposing the facts about alcoholism disease to our youth before they start abusing alcohol and exhibiting drinking problems, the majority of teenagers and pre-teens will not only learn how to avoid the unhealthy and damaging realities suffered by most problem drinkers and alcoholics, but they will also learn more healthy and productive lifestyles.


The Bottom Line

The important point to keep in mind regarding this article is the following: The more alcohol is consumed in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that the drinker will become an alcoholic.

If this describes you, then you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol rehab as soon as you can.