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Is Alcohol Use Disorder Considered a Disease

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Bipolar disorder and severe depression are two mental illnesses that co-occur with alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol use disorder is a long-lasting situation that will become worse over time. It involves an enormous risk of relapse and, like many diseases, can be treated and detected but not cured. 

Many people have one or more fundamental issues about addiction. Such as “Why can it be seen as a disease?” I want to know the answer, “Is alcohol use disorder considered a disease?” Addictions to alcoholic persons and other drugs share many features with other alcoholic disorders. The differences and similarities between alcohol and its diseases are discussed in this article. 

What is Considered a Disease?

It can be helpful to understand the medical definition of disease and relate it to alcoholism and its substance use disorders. A disease is a disorder of function with a specific set of signs and symptoms.

A chronic disease that lasts for three months or longer than it has additional typical features such as: 

  • Vaccination cannot stop them
  • Diseases are not treated with medicines
  • They do not merely disappear

Diseases are the most significant contributor to the $3.5 trillion in annual healthcare costs in the United States (US) and the primary cause of disability and mortality in the nation. Even though many illnesses may not have a cure, they can frequently be managed or treated with particular dietary modifications or drugs. Medication can control the symptoms of many disorders, but the treatments commonly have side effects and sometimes interact.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six out of ten Americans are ill. Numerous behaviors, including smoking, inactivity, and poor eating practices, can lead to diseases. The most common conditions include arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast and colon cancer, obesity, and dental issues.

What is Alcoholism? 

Alcoholism is the inability to control one’s alcohol consumption and excessive alcohol use, often known as alcohol use disorder. Patients with alcohol consumption disorders are unable to manage their drinking. 

Each classification of alcohol consumption disorder has its own set of signs ranging from minor to severe. 

In the past, alcohol use disorder was divided into abuse and dependence. Now, it is measured using a spectrum. Depending on requirements, a person may be diagnosed with anything from mild to severe alcohol consumption disorder. 

Having an alcoholic urge, drinking more than one intended to, or consuming too much alcohol despite affecting daily life are some indicators that someone may be diagnosed with alcoholism. 

Bipolar disorder and severe depression are two mental illnesses that regularly co-occur with alcohol use disorder, according to research. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are severe problems in the United States. 14.5 million adults with alcohol use problems received treatment in 2019, and another 401,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 suffer from alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a problem on a personal, familial, and cultural level. Alcoholism damages a person’s heart, liver, and brain, leading to illness and death. Addicts are also more prone to sustain accidents, damage others, or run into financial or marital problems that impact their families, especially their children. Alcoholism harms society through drunk driving-related fatalities and injuries, high healthcare costs, and lost productivity.

What Causes Alcoholism?

Many different things cause alcohol consumption problems. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists the following risk factors for alcohol consumption disorder:

  • Taking up alcohol before the age of 15
  • Genetics and genealogy
  • Mental illnesses and a history of trauma (mental health)
  • Excessive drinking and binge drinking

Genetic predispositions and environmental risk factors, like stress or trauma, are common causes of alcohol use disorders. Before the age of 15, drinking is more likely to lead to addiction than waiting until the age of 21.

How to Know If Alcoholism Is a Disease

When a person’s ability to control alcohol use is lost, alcoholism typically results. Finding the precise moment, though, might be tricky. 

Alcoholism typically develops into a disease when:

  • You try to stop drinking but are unsuccessful.
  • You persist despite occasionally disastrous results.
  • Alcohol is physiologically enticing and quitting results in withdrawal issues.

When alcoholism escalates to the point that it becomes a disease, medical experts can diagnose it using criteria developed by specialists to describe the warning signs and withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism.

Why Is Alcoholism Considered a Disease?

The perception of alcoholism as a disease is based on various factors. It has specific inheritable characteristics, meaning some genetic features may run in families. 

Consider the disease of diabetes as an illustration. The probability of developing diabetes is influenced by your genetic makeup and dietary and exercise preferences. Alcoholism is similar to that. 

You could be genetically predisposed to alcoholism if a family member or ancestor suffered from the disease. Growing up in a society where alcohol consumption is normalized increases your risk. Heredity and environmental risk factors both have an impact on how the disease develops. 

There is no permanent cure for diabetes; specific steps such as medication and healthy lifestyle decisions like regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can control your diabetes. Your diabetes would become out of control and cause problems if you stopped doing these things.

Like other diseases, alcoholism can be identified and diagnosed based on specific symptoms, and it can be treated by a medical professional. Combining medication, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment choice in inpatient and outpatient settings.

Relapse may occur if alcoholism and other disorders are not adequately controlled and treated. 

But if you enroll in an AA group or alcohol treatment program, change your lifestyle, and perhaps take certain medications, you can keep it under control. You run the risk of relapsing if you don’t. 

The fact that alcoholism advances over time is another factor in its classification as a disease. Particular signs and behaviors distinguish each stage of alcoholism. 

For instance, a person in the early stages of alcoholism frequently consumes more alcohol and exhibits more secrecy in their behavior. As a person’s alcoholism increases and more health issues arise, their behaviors get increasingly out of control.

Severe Adverse Effects

There are three key areas where this sickness has had a significant negative impact:

Without Restraint, No Self Control

If substance abuse has affected the brain to the extent that occurs when someone is addicted, willpower alone won’t be sufficient for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many people can abstain from using drugs or alcohol for a day, a week, or even months, but once they begin, their drug abuse usage usually has a life of its own.

The most apparent symptom of alcohol consumption disorder may be a loss of control over drinking, including how, where, and when to stop. 

Your loved one can not “just quit,” remember that addiction physically alters our brains, making it difficult to sustain healthy willpower. 

Your loved one lacks the usual enthusiasm and drive with which they would typically pursue their goals while dealing with addiction on their own. Denial or self-loathing won’t change this fact.

Harmful Effects on the Brain

The anatomical integrity of the brain can be severely altered by long-term heavy drinking. The nature and intensity of the physical toll on brain health vary depending on the person’s age and alcohol usage. It could be challenging to react fast, make decisions, or even learn new things due to this impairment.

Damage to the Body

Chronic alcohol abuse is extremely detrimental to the body and is a leading cause of avoidable or unnecessary deaths. The liver, heart, and brain experience harmful effects, which are widely acknowledged. Additional dangers include:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increasing blood pressure
  • Conditions like stroke caused by hazardous sexual behaviors, including drinking

Not to mention possible injury or demise by fetal alcohol syndrome, murder, suicide, vehicle accidents, falls, drowning, or domestic violence.

If you have seen a loved one struggle with alcoholism or addiction, some of these impacts can be all too familiar to you.

How to Overcome Alcohol Dependence

Alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder typically requires therapy because they are diseases that must be treated. If you struggle with alcohol addiction, help is available. 

No one treatment approach works for everyone, so it’s critical to speak with a treatment center to explore options and develop a plan that works best for you.

Some individuals enroll in an inpatient program, which involves staying on-site at a treatment center. At the same time, others do well by receiving therapy with outpatient care since it allows them to continue living at home and working.

Regardless of the specific therapy environment, patients with alcohol use disorder are typically treated by combining medication, which can lessen cravings, and counseling, which teaches them the coping mechanisms to deal with stress and prevent drinking triggers. It is easier to remain committed to recovery when you attend meetings with support groups like The Haven Detox-New England.

Providing Assistance to an Alcoholic

You can support someone who is battling alcoholism by taking on specific activities. Think about the following strategies:

To empathize with your loved one, you must comprehend alcohol use disorder. Don’t accuse or criticize them when speaking with them; instead, come from a place of compassion and concern.Give examples of behavior that disturbs you rather than generalizations like, “You’re  hooked.”

We are providing them with resources, helping them enroll in treatment, or pledging to support their recovery.

Don’t assist them by providing them with money or offering justifications for their mistakes.

Alcoholism is a Disease That Requires Medical Attention.

Therapy must take into account the notion that alcoholism is considered an illness with a long course. The best treatment plans are typically lengthy and adapt as the patient progresses through the stages of recovery to meet the patient’s evolving demands and medical conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is alcoholism a disease or a habit?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) joined the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2011 in adopting the definition of addiction as a chronic brain condition rather than a behavior issue or merely the outcome of making poor decisions.

Is alcoholism a disease with which you were born?

One cannot be born with an alcohol use disorder due to how genetics and environment interact. Even though certain people may have genes that make them more likely to develop an alcohol consumption disorder, heredity only contributes to around half of an individual’s overall risk.

Is alcoholism considered a disease in the US?

The American Hospital Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American College of Physicians categorized “alcoholism” as a disease.

Why is alcohol not a disease?

Without being a sickness in and of itself, excessive drinking can result in physical dependence and physical disease. It is not necessary to support medical intervention or a compassionate attitude to persons who are alcohol dependent with the “disease notion” of alcoholism. The disease idea of alcoholism comes in both a particular and broad form. 

Empirical data contradicts the unique disease notion most linked with the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is not beneficial for preventing and treating problem drinking, especially for efforts to identify and curb it early on. 

Find Help From The Haven Detox in New England

Overcoming alcoholism on your own can be challenging, that is why The Haven is here to provide the support and medical needed to fight this battle. Our professional medical staff has helped hundreds of patients reach recovery and live and healthy life. The Haven Detox located in New England is a state of the art rehab facility that offers medical detox and residential treatment programs

We offer a range of care levels, from inpatient therapy to outpatient programs, and have sites across the country. When you are ready to take the first step, contact our admissions counselors at (844) 933-4145. Our counselors are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the process.