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Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy:

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For many people, the facts about alcoholism are not clear. What is alcoholism, exactly? How does it differ from alcohol abuse? When should a person seek help for a problem related to his or her drinking? The following information explains both alcoholism and alcohol abuse, the symptoms of each, when and where to seek help, treatment choices, and additional helpful resources.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as “alcohol dependence,” is a disease that includes four symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
     
  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
     
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
     
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high.”

People who are not alcoholic sometimes do not understand why an alcoholic can’t just “use a little willpower” to stop drinking. However, alcoholism has little to do with willpower. Alcoholics are in the grip of a powerful “craving,” or uncontrollable need, for alcohol that overrides their ability to stop drinking. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.

Although some people are able to recover from alcoholism without help, the majority of alcoholics need assistance. With treatment and support, many individuals are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

Many people wonder why some individuals can use alcohol without problems but others cannot. One important reason has to do with genetics. Scientists have found that having an alcoholic family member makes it more likely that if you choose to drink you too may develop alcoholism. Genes, however, are not the whole story. In fact, scientists now believe that certain factors in a person’s environment influence whether a person with a genetic risk for alcoholism ever develops the disease. A person’s risk for developing alcoholism can increase based on the person’s environment, including where and how he or she lives; family, friends, and culture; peer pressure; and even how easy it is to get alcohol.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
  • Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
     
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
     
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and
     
  • Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.

Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.

What Are the Signs of a Problem?

How can you tell whether you may have a drinking problem? Answering the following four questions can help you find out:
  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
     
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
     
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
     
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (as an “eye opener”) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. If you answered “yes” to more than one question, it is highly likely that a problem exists. In either case, it is important that you see your doctor or other health care provider right away to discuss your answers to these questions. He or she can help you determine whether you have a drinking problem and, if so, recommend the best course of action.

Even if you answered “no” to all of the above questions, if you encounter drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or the law, you should seek professional help. The effects of alcohol abuse can be extremely serious—even fatal—both to you and to others.

Alcoholism Treatment

The type of treatment you receive depends on the severity of your alcoholism and the resources that are available in your community. Treatment may include detoxification (the process of safely getting alcohol out of your system); taking doctor-prescribed medications, such as disulfiram (Antabuse®) or naltrexone (ReVia™), to help prevent a return (or relapse) to drinking once drinking has stopped; and individual and/or group counseling. There are promising types of counseling that teach alcoholics to identify situations and feelings that trigger the urge to drink and to find new ways to cope that do not include alcohol use. These treatments are often provided on an outpatient basis.

Because the support of family members is important to the recovery process, many programs also offer brief marital counseling and family therapy as part of the treatment process. Programs may also link individuals with vital community resources, such as legal assistance, job training, childcare, and parenting classes.

 

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What is Amphetamine Addiction?

Viewed in some circles as the less-threatening "little brother" of the dangerous and highly addictive crystal meth, amphetamine remains a significant threat to the adolescents and adults who use the drug in misguided attempts to fight off fatigue, enhance concentration, or gain a competitive edge in an athletic event.
 

 

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