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Alcoholism is a disease where a person can no longer control his or her relationship with alcohol. As a result, the person drinks to excess and often to his or her own detriment, but cannot stop due to the disease.
Alcoholism treatment is vital for a person with alcoholism to pursue because alcoholism has potentially harmful and long-lasting health effects. The sooner a person quits and seeks alcoholism treatment, the greater the potential for a longer, healthier life.
A person can have a problem with alcohol without necessarily experiencing an alcohol addiction. This is known as alcohol abuse. A person with an alcohol abuse problem has some control over his or her drinking while a person with alcoholism does not.
This does not mean, however, that a person with alcohol abuse problems will not experience drinking-related problems. Those with alcohol abuse concerns may have poor performance at school or work because they are hung over, have problems with the law or cause rifts in friendships or relationships due to their drinking.
If a person’s drinking has created problems in his or her life, that person has a drinking problem. Many people who struggle with alcoholism experience affected relationships, financial difficulties and trouble maintaining a job. Those with alcoholism often experience legal problems due to their drinking.
In addition to these changes, a person may also experience physical changes associated with alcoholism. These can include developing a tolerance to alcohol, experiencing cravings when not drinking and having withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking and nausea when not drinking.
Alcohol detox is the first step to breaking free from an alcohol addiction. However, alcohol withdrawals are associated with adverse health effects, including agitation, seizures and hallucinations. In some instances, these effects can be life-threatening. This is why alcohol detox should always be undertaken at a medical treatment facility.
A person in rehabilitation can also benefit from exploring his or her mental connection with alcohol. Individual and group therapies can help this process by allowing an individual to share feelings in a safe environment. Another medication treatment option is taking antabuse (disulfiram). This medicine makes a person feel sick if he or she drinks even small amounts of alcohol.
Prolonged alcohol abuse is associated with a number of poor health conditions. These include heart abnormalities, such as cardiomyopathy, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and stroke. The liver is especially affected by alcohol abuse because the liver filters alcohol and other wastes in the body. Examples of alcohol-related liver conditions include hepatitis, cirrhosis and fatty liver.
Alcoholism is also associated with increased cancer risk, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and breast, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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