Alcoholism is a health problem produced by the compulsive consumption of alcohol, which is capable of generating physical and psychological dependence. It is an excessive, problematic intake, difficult to control by one’s own will.In turn, this behavior is caused by multiple and varied factors: physical predisposition, psychological vulnerabilities, and social factors that facilitate consumption.
But one of the most striking aspects of alcoholism is that it is often socially accepted in its early stages.
Alcoholism and its naturalization
The consumption of alcohol in excess is usually naturalized and socially accepted and in the social imaginary, an alcoholic is someone who is seen to be alcoholic during the day, in a street situation, starting to drink in the morning or drinking every day of the week. In this way, other forms of alcoholism are made invisible.This is not determined by the amount of alcohol a person consumes per day but by how that person relates to alcohol: with dependence, need, compulsion and difficulty in being without consumption.
In other words, a person is an alcoholic because of how they drink, whether they drink every day, one day a week, or more sporadically. However, not everyone who consumes alcohol is an alcoholic, as there can be consumption without establishing a link of dependence and addiction with it . But… what happens in the human body where there is dependence?
The effects of alcoholism
Once ingested in the body, alcohol produces two opposing actions, a disinhibiting effect and a depressing effect . The first one blocks parts of the brain in charge of thinking, the capacity to reflect, moral conscience, ethical values; and it over-stimulates impulses and emotions. This allows us to understand that an alcoholic person can show himself to be different from when he is sober and even commit crimes without the possibility of control, which, without consumption, he would not carry out.
The depressant effect inhibits the central nervous system causing a decrease in its functions: less attention, less psychomotor coordination, drowsiness, feeling of exhaustion, among others, reaching in extreme cases to respiratory arrest and death.
The emergence of drinking tolerance
Why are the quantities of alcoholic drinks consumed increasing?Because the body generates tolerance to the substance , it is as if it gets used to it and, as it does not produce the expected effect, then it becomes necessary to drink more quantities of alcohol or stronger alcoholic beverages to achieve the desired effects.
Why can’t the alcoholic stop drinking?
Another concept to be denatured refers to the reasons for the difficulty, in some cases, and the impossibility, in others, of stopping drinking. It is not for pleasure, caprice or vice; it is because of the strong compulsion to drink that the alcoholic feels, which becomes irrepressible and escapes his or her voluntary control , because he or she is in a situation of physical and psychological dependence.
The body asks for alcohol and the head needs it to keep going. In addition, without consumption, withdrawal symptoms develop. Withdrawal presents itself with unpleasant sensations, physical manifestations, anxiety, irritability, distress, and a strong desire (need) to consume.
How do you act when you suspect someone close to you is addicted?
A first step involves denaturing problematic alcohol consumption. In doing so, doubts and the need to ask for help begin to arise .
Here we can find a second step: to find our own space for listening, for asking questions, for guidance on alcoholism, to learn to observe how the person’s relationship with consumption and with alcohol is: can he control his intake without depending on alcohol; does he find it difficult to stop drinking; does he look for excuses to drink?
It is important to be aware of the problem consumption of alcohol in time, due to the risks it may cause, since alcoholism causes a greater probability of suffering accidents, illnesses and death , in addition to having effects at the behavioural, emotional, relationship, social, work and legal levels.
Guidance and support to families is fundamental to understand that alcoholism is a disease that has recovery and for which specialized treatment is indispensable both for the alcoholic relative and for the rest of the family. This will allow families to resignify consumption and its consequences, generate changes in attitude and build spaces for dialogue and family communication.
It is also important that the family can work in spaces specialized in alcoholism those difficult and traumatic situations caused by the effect of alcoholism that affects the whole family, such as anguish, impotence, fears, anger, psychosomatic symptoms, feelings of guilt… to start having themselves new healthy life habits, strengthening of self-esteem, elaboration of new projects of personal realization to learn how to live better and build a healthier life.