Alcohol addiction and dependence

An omnipresent devil

Alcohol is one of the most widespread substances of abuse. As far back as 1976, the alcohol dependence syndrome was understood to be a spectrum of varying degrees of abnormality in life owing to use of alcohol. Like all psychiatric conditions, alcoholism (now better known as alcohol dependence) is characterized by its own distinct disease pathophysiology.

Who drinks and why

Alcohol related problems are seen in all classes of people. Data strongly indicates a genetic linkage in chronic alcohol consumption. A hereditary defect in the dopamine (D2) receptor gene may contribute to impaired reward mechanism in the brain, which make the individual crave for alcohol. At a psychodynamic level, alcohol consumption is understood as a way of dealing with unconscious conflicts, anxiety, stress, and psychic pain.

Social boost

Today societal consumption of alcohol is accepted and is a commonality in most countries. Communal and cultural factors play a significant role in promoting use, abuse as well as dependence in vulnerable individuals. Publicity is rampant about the many cardiovascular beneficial effects of alcohol and its ability to lower the risk of cardiac illness; however all these suggestions are controversial; dependence is certainly is not a recommendation..

The vicious cycle

Prolonged use of alcohol alters neurotransmitters, rendering the human brain dependent. If alcohol consumption is stopped, the nervous system demands it; and this is experienced as restlessness, anxiety, tremors, panic, irritability, anger, frustration, insomnia, nightmares and frequently altered perceptions like illusions and hallucinations. Alcohol decreases one’s confidence and self-esteem. Consumption stops these symptoms; but only for a short while. People continue to drink even after making up their mind to quit (to prevent these effects). The person becomes a slave to the drink and all activities revolve around its procurement.

Identifying dependence

Ordinarily every alcohol consuming individual does not develop dependence. Protracted alcohol use for its inebriating effect, accelerating the quantity of consumption owing to the diminished impact with the same amount; and experience of negative effects in its absence, characterizes dependence. There is resultant preoccupation with alcohol, thoughts about its procurement, hiding from loved ones who prevent the person from drinking; and frequently medical, social or legal consequences owing to alcohol use.

MINDFRAMES: Reframing dependence

Alcohol dependence has subtypes based on the pattern of consumption. Some people drink due to loneliness, while others do so for company; some to release stress while many to curb aggression. Binge drinking explains impulsivity while continual daily drinking reveals severe physical dependence. A problem with a mix of biological, psychological and social etiology deserves a similar management strategy. We offer medical and psychological management for alcohol dependence and see at the problem holistically to find appropriate and long-lasting solutions for the problematic drinker and coping strategies for the family. Alcohol dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions do get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with alcohol. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.

Physical impact

Negative physical consequences of longstanding alcohol use

  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased serum cholesterol
  • Enhanced heart workload
  • Chances of heart attacks
  • Head, neck, stomach cancers
  • Gastritis and bleeding ulcers
  • Liver cirrhosis and failure
  • Hepatic malignancies
  • Muscle pain and spasm
  • Weakness and malabsorption
  • Numbness and Neuropathies

Frequently Asked Questions

What are blackouts?
Blackouts are transient episodes of complete amnesia (loss of memory), which occur due to alcohol intoxication. The person usually performs a range of tasks during intoxication but has no recollection the next day. If they occur frequently, it is a bad sign and points towards a more severe brain involvement due to alcohol; and must be investigated. It expresses a predilection of the individual to alcohol related dementia.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are rum fits?
Rum fits are fits or convulsions, which occur during alcohol withdrawal. Stoppage of alcohol after prolonged consumption can give rise to convulsions since the brain now needs alcohol to function normally and demonstrates abnormal electrical activity in its absence. The name ‘rum fit’ is symbolic as rum was very frequently consumed in the past.