If you drink alcoholic beverages, even occasionally, you need to know the facts about alcohol and alcoholism. The American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and other medical authorities have considered alcoholism a disease for nearly 50 years!
Who Becomes Alcoholic?
Although it isn’t possible to predict who will develop alcoholism, understanding the illness provides a better chance of identifying it. The earlier this information is understood the better. As the illness progresses, self-identification becomes more difficult,. Misinformation and stigma also contribute to denial, a hallmark of the disease.
Definition of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and sometimes fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial (American Society on Addiction Medicine.) It has been known for decades that alcoholism is partly hereditary. This makes persons with alcoholism, while not to blame for their disease, responsible for its consequences and treating it when symptoms become evident.
Did You See Yourself?
In the definition of alcoholism, did you focus first on symptoms that didn’t match your drinking pattern? Unlike cancer, where any symptom would cause alarm, symptoms of alcoholism that a person can say they do not have usually get the most attention. This is particularly true with persons confronted by others over their alcohol-related problems.
Most alcoholics have a false definition of alcoholism that excludes them. This definition is based upon symptoms they have ruled out. These missing symptoms are used to explain why they are not alcoholic. Over time, their definition will change as new symptoms emerge with increasing severity, and the need to “compare out” grows more urgent.
Although in denial, most people with alcoholism have some awareness of a connection between their personal problems and drinking. This makes self-identification possible when questions about drinking patterns associated with the disease are presented in a professional evaluation.
Looking Deeper at Denial
The terms “problem drinker” and “functional alcoholic” are labels that support denial. They help the alcoholic continue drinking unaffected by the anxiety of awareness. These are not medical terms. They assist the alcoholic, family, and/or friends with comparing out of the diagnosis.
A One Question Quiz
Have you seriously wondered whether you could be an alcoholic? If so, a full evaluation is a good idea. Social drinkers (those who drink, but do not have alcoholism) do not seriously consider this question.
The “CAGE” assessment is often used to quickly screen for alcoholism. Answering “yes” to two or more of the following questions usually confirms a diagnosis:
1) Have you ever tried to Cut down on your drinking? 2) Do you get Annoyed when people talk about your drinking? 3) Do you feel Guilty about your drinking? 4) Have you ever had an Eye-opener? (A drink first thing in the morning?)
Full evaluation tests include the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST) and others that focus on behavioral symptoms like memory loss while drinking, DUIs, lost time from work, family complaints, concerns of relatives, worries about one’s drinking, prior treatment, liver trouble, relationship problems, arrests or fights when drunk, failed promises at cutting back, and more. Some liver function tests can also spot evidence of alcoholism by abnormalities in the liver’s enzyme production.
What the EAP Can Do
Completing a full evaluation with an experienced professional is the best way to identify alcoholism. EAP consultants are trained in conducting evaluations, and there is no cost to you. If you are concerned about your drinking, you may have tried to stop drinking by doing it “your way.” Follow the advice of a professional who understands the disease, and you will have a better shot at abstinence and successful recovery from alcoholism.