Alcoholism – Another lifestyle problem.

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Too much of anything is a bad thing. That goes for anything in the world and more so when it is related to consumption. We all know the bad effects of alcohol.  Alcohol consumption has increased by nearly 106.7% in the past 30 or so years (The National Medical Journey of India). It is one of the largest causes of deaths in the country. Alcoholism is officially a disease and like most diseases, can be prevented.

Alcoholism can be identified in the early stages and is known as problem drinking. When one has too many drinks at once at a regular period, it is safe to call the person a problem drinker. From this period on we can reverse the stage so that the person might not begin climbing the four stages of alcoholism. There is also the binge drinker – someone who gulps down 5 drinks at a time. Both the binge and problem drinkers usually go through several health and social problems which happen to be both the cause and effect of their drinking. Denying if you have a problem with alcohol is actually one of the symptoms of alcoholism. Here are some more:

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  • The inability to limit or control yourself from drinking.
  • A strong compulsion to drink now and then.
  • Drinking alone or drinking while hiding from others.
  • When you don’t drink, you experience symptoms of withdrawal which include nausea, sweating and shaky fingers.
  • Having regular ‘black – outs’. Not being able to remember conversation or commitments you’ve made to a person.
  • Having a ritual of drinking. Drinking at a particular time slot and being irritated, agitated when you are unable to drink then or if someone questions it.
  • Getting annoyed or irritable when you want to drink but there is no alcohol available.
  • Hiding alcohol. Keeping them at unusual places like the bathrooms or hiding them in the car.
  • When you gulp down drinks to feel better or use it as an excuse.
  • Facing problems in personal relationships, at work and having financial problems due to drinking.
  • Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed doing.
  • Feeling guilty about drinking and continuing to drink anyway.

If during this time, the person suffers even a minor loss, it is very likely that the amount of drinking will increase. If a person is showing the signs mentioned above, or is behaving worse, you should probably go to a doctor.  How do you know which stage the person is in? Is it too late to go to a doctor? To help you, here are the four stages of alcoholism defined by E. Morton Jellinek, which will enable you to judge if a person is alcoholic or no.

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  1. The Pre – Alcoholic Stage

This stage has very little evidence of problem drinking. The behavior seems normal for any person who is a little drunk. Drinking is mostly done on occasions or with friends. It is more a part of social interaction. After a while however, drinking is used as a method to relieve stress. The body becomes tolerant to alcohol and large amounts of it don’t seem to affect the body. It takes large amounts of alcohol to result in inebriation. If a person is drinking reasonable amounts in a social situation, then there isn’t much reason for worry. However, if the drinking is to forget worries, reduce anxiety and make the person feel better, he/she is in a pre – alcoholic stage. Drinking to reduce physical pain is also not a good sign.

  1. The Early Alcoholic Stage

This stage usually begins after the first blackout. There is a growing discontent in the person and he/she is unable to resist drinking, thinking it will calm that discontent. The person begins to lie about drinking to family and friends. The person begins to hide alcohol or disguise it in a bottle. The person may also put some amounts of alcohol in his/her coffee etc. to sip it whenever they like. The body is now increasingly tolerant to alcohol and the person keeps having obsessive thoughts about it.

  1. The Middle – Alcoholic Stage

This is when the effects of alcohol are the most obvious to the friends and family. The person begins to miss work, familial or social obligations either due to drinking or hangover. The person begins drinking at inappropriate times – when he/she is with young children, while driving, at work etc. The person becomes increasingly irritable with the family and friends. The body begins to develop facial redness, stomach bloating, sluggishness, weight gain, or weight loss. The person realizes something is wrong but cannot control himself. This stage is probably when the person starts seeking help groups or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). When you notice the person being in this stage, it is advisable to get help.

  1. The Late – Alcoholic Stage.

It is during this stage that the person begins to have serious health issues. Everything takes a backseat. The person drinks all day – from morning till he/she passes out. The person usually has lost his/her job, so it is advisable not to leave this person all alone and keep his/her close to family or the condition will further deteriorate. The person may begin to develop diseases like cirrhosis of the liver or dementia.  They also begin to be paranoid without reason. When the person attempts to stop drinking, he/she gets tremors or hallucinates.  Even at this stage, the person can be helped through therapy, detoxification and rehabilitation.

Alcoholism is another lifestyle disease that is consistently on the rise and if you know anyone who is showing any of the symptoms it is highly advisable to get the person help.

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