Alcoholism (Alcohol Addiction)Alcoholism (Alcohol Addiction) is by far the most prevalent addictive disease worldwide. At the same time, the health risks of alcoholism are very often underestimated. Experts estimate that alcohol is responsible for about 40 deaths per year in Germany alone.000 deaths is responsible. Read more about symptoms, causes, treatment, and self-help for alcohol dependence.
Alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction
The question "What is alcoholism??" Or "who is an alcoholic?" divides the minds at the counters and in the living rooms. In fact, the boundaries between alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and binge drinking are fluid. Under "Alcohol – Abuse or Indulgence" you will find numerous facts about the topic. This guidebook on alcoholism is about pathological alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism can be called a widespread disease without a doubt. More than 3.3 million Germans are considered alcoholics, according to the 2017 Yearbook on Addiction published by the German Centre for Addiction Risks. The Federal Statistical Office puts the number of addicts at at least 1.6 million. However, there are experts and self-help associations who put even these high figures higher: There is talk of up to 2.5 million alcoholics.
Different figures circulate about the number of people with critical alcohol consumption. According to the DHS, it amounts to at least 1.7 million. In its 2015 health report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) even speaks of up to 10 million Germans with critical alcohol consumption.
Yet, contrary to preconceptions, alcoholism is not an exclusively male domain. Just under a quarter of alcoholics (370.000) represent girls and women – and the trend is rising. Among women with alcoholism, recent studies indicate that women with high levels of education and women between 45 and 54 are particularly prevalent.
Among young men, risk for alcoholism increases as educational attainment decreases. From the age of 45. Alcohol consumption is higher in men with a good education than in those with an average or poor education before the age of 50.
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), alcoholism is said to occur when three of the following six symptoms apply:
– Strong or compulsive desire to drink alcohol – Problems reliably limiting alcohol consumption – Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking – Increased alcohol tolerance – Neglecting other activities and obligations in order to be able to drink – Continued drinking despite existing health damage from alcohol consumption.
Progressive alcohol consumption brings with it a variety of symptoms and illnesses that indicate a developing or existing dependency. Some of the most obvious signs of alcoholism are:
– secret drinking – hiding alcohol, such as decanting alcoholic beverages into packages of non-alcoholic beverages – drunk driving, driving license revoked because of alcohol – emotional lapses after alcohol consumption, such as increased quarrels or physical altercations while drunk – money worries because of frequent alcohol purchases or extensive pub crawls – withdrawal from friends, family members or life partners – less and less social contact with non-drinkers – liver and pancreas diseases.
Alcoholics do not conform to the prejudices
A prejudice about alcoholics portrays alcoholics as work-shy, lazy people. In fact, the opposite is often the case. Alcoholics develop very great effort when it comes to hiding their illness. Part of this is, especially during the first years of addiction, not to stand out at work and in private surroundings. This is why alcoholics often perform better than others at work and are considered helpful and committed contemporaries in neighborhoods or clubs. With these activities, alcoholics not only create the space for their addiction to the outside world, but also confirm to themselves the image of a person who certainly has no problem with alcohol.
Although alcohol is freely available and socially accepted as a stimulant, it is still a very powerful drug. Alcohol induces states of intoxication that many people find pleasurable. In addition, alcohol has a strong relaxing and disinhibiting effect. So it is only natural if this pleasant state is sought again and again. The engine of this behavior is our brain – and there the so-called reward system. Once in contact with an addictive substance, it repeatedly sends impulses demanding more drug. So much for the highly simplified brain physiological process of addiction development.
Many factors determine addiction development
But why do some people become dependent and others do not?? According to addiction experts, about one third of the tendency to addictive behavior is hereditary. Children of alcoholic parents have a significantly higher risk of developing alcoholism themselves. The genetic effect is amplified to another third if children grow up without awareness of alcohol and the risk of addiction in general. Addiction researchers attribute the last third of the causes of alcoholism to the personal history of the sufferer. Traumatic experiences such as abuse, violence or separation increase the likelihood of developing an addictive disorder.
Alcoholism can also spread to close people. If, for example, the wife repeatedly protects the alcoholic husband from the consequences of alcoholism or procures the alcohol, this can develop into a so-called co-dependency.
Alcoholism is an addictive disease that often only becomes noticeable when severe symptoms develop that can hardly be hidden any longer. As a rule, alcoholism first makes itself felt in the family or living community. Family members and partners are often the driving forces in convincing an alcoholic of the need for therapy.
The road to therapy for alcoholism is often very long and can take decades to complete. Even with obvious problems in the partnership or family, it takes an average of about 7 years for alcoholics to give in to their partner's urging and agree to treatment for alcoholism.
Alcoholism is not curable in the strict sense of the word. The addiction to alcohol remains for life. The goal of therapy is the dry alcoholic, i.e. an alcohol-dependent person who no longer consumes alcohol.
The treatment of alcoholism usually consists of at least three steps:
– Detoxification – withdrawal therapy – follow-up treatment
Detoxification of alcoholics
Alcohol is not only an intoxicant, but also a cytotoxin, which after a while becomes physically addictive. The metabolism changes to such an extent that withdrawal from alcohol without medical treatment can even be fatal. During the inpatient detoxification of alcoholics, the metabolism is normalized on the one hand and the sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms are alleviated with medication on the other hand.
Detoxification, the first component of alcoholism treatment, is followed by withdrawal treatment. For this inpatient therapy at least 16 weeks are to be estimated. The most successful psychotherapeutic method for alcohol withdrawal is cognitive behavioral therapy. In the course of this therapy, the reasons for the addictive behavior are worked through on the one hand and new, constructive behavior patterns for a life without alcohol are practiced on the other. However, withdrawal therapy is only the beginning of a process leading out of alcoholism. The goal: to become a dry alcoholic.
Under "Addiction therapy – ways out of addiction" you will find detailed information on how to successfully overcome addiction.
In the 16 to 20 weeks of withdrawal therapy, it is not possible to overcome all the patterns and consequences of alcohol consumption that has often lasted for decades. During this time, clients are given the tools to continue treating the disease themselves in everyday life.
Most dry alcoholics are convinced that permanent abstinence is hardly possible without the help of self-help groups. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or the Kreuzbund (and many others) are considered by addiction researchers and addiction counselors to be the most successful instance for the treatment of alcoholism.
Self-help with alcoholism is, even if it sounds contradictory, on the one hand hardly possible and on the other hand the only way out of dependence. Without professional help, medical support during detoxification or support in the form of self-help groups, the exit from alcoholism is impossible for the absolute majority of those affected. On the other hand, the efforts of family, friends, doctors and therapists remain without any chance of success if alcoholics are not determined to help themselves.
The prevention of alcoholism requires an awareness of the dangers of alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a legal and socially accepted drug, which is sometimes even glorified as an indispensable stimulant. This goes so far that, for example, in many regions and social groups, increased alcohol tolerance and regular drinking (2 of the criteria for alcoholism) are considered a desirable expression of masculinity.