Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Is alcoholism a disease? Learn more about how alcoholism may be classified as a disease and how to seek treatment at Essence Healthcare.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a chronic and progressive condition characterized by an unhealthy pattern of alcohol use. It leads to significant impairment or distress. It is a type of substance use disorder that can negatively affect health and social relationships. But, is alcoholism a disease? Read on to find out.1

Alcoholism symptoms can include a compulsive urge to drink and an inability to control alcohol consumption. It can also lead to physical and mental health problems, including liver disease, depression, and more. Realizing that you or a loved one may have an issue with alcohol can help you get the help you need to heal.

What Are Some Risk Factors of Developing Alcoholism?

There are a few common risk factors that may cause someone to develop an alcohol use disorder, including:2
  • Genetics
  • Early onset of drinking
  • Social and cultural factors, such as peer pressure and stress
  • Mental health disorders
  • Gender
  • Lack of supportive relationships or being involved in a dysfunctional family environment
  • Personal traits, such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and low self-esteem

Note that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean a person will develop alcoholism. Still, it’s important to be aware of these risk factors and take steps to reduce the risk of developing alcoholism.

The Big Question: Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Is alcoholism a disease? There have been several studies done that look into this question. According to a study by National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2019, of individuals aged 12 and older, about 15 million had an alcohol use disorder.3

The debate of “is alcoholism a disease?” is ongoing. Many do not believe it to be, as it can be described as a behavioral problem arising from personal choices rather than a physical condition. However, several medical professionals and organizations answer this question in the affirmative. This is because it is a chronic and progressive condition that affects the brain and body. Alcoholism can cause changes in brain chemistry that lead to physical dependence on alcohol, making it difficult for people to stop drinking even when they want to.

Answering the Big Question: Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Alcoholism is considered a disease by many medical professionals and organizations, including the American Medical Association, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the World Health Organization.4

Why Is Alcoholism A Disease?

Is alcoholism a disease? To answer that question, it’s important to look at all factors of the substance abuse disorder. Alcoholism can have long-term consequences on a person’s physical and mental health. People with alcoholism often experience changes in their brain chemistry that lead to a physical dependence on alcohol.

Like other diseases, alcoholism can be treated with medical and behavioral interventions. Also, the question about alcoholism can be shown by its effects on children during development. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to several physical, learning, and behavioral effects on the developing brain of the baby. The most serious is a collection of symptoms known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).5

Impact of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

It’s important to note that although people may debate this question, this does not change the fact that alcohol addiction can have serious negative consequences on a person’s physical, mental, and social health. Seeking professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist can help individuals overcome alcohol abuse and addiction.

What Are The Symptoms Of Alcoholism?

Some common physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms include:6
  • Drinking more or for a longer period than intended
  • Having a strong urge to drink and feeling unable to stop
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, meaning that you need to drink more to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, nausea, or anxiety when trying to stop drinking
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from its effects
  • Neglecting other activities or responsibilities to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite knowing that it is causing physical or mental health problems

If you or someone you love is experiencing the symptoms of alcoholism, seeking professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist is important. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and help create a treatment plan to manage the symptoms and prevent relapse.

Is Alcoholism a Disease: How It Impacts People

Here are some examples of how alcoholism can impact physical, mental, and social well-being.
  • Physical health: Alcoholism can cause various physical health problems, including liver disease, pancreatitis, and high blood pressure.
  • Mental health: Alcoholism can cause or worsen depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Chronic alcohol use can also lead to memory problems, dementia, and cognitive impairment.
  • Social and relationship problems: Alcoholism can cause problems in personal relationships, work, and social activities. It can also lead to isolation and loneliness.
  • Risky behaviors: Alcoholism can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, such as drunk driving and unprotected sex.
In general, alcoholism can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life and well-being. However, with the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms of alcoholism and improve one’s health and relationships.

What Are Some Treatment Opportunities For Those Experiencing Alcoholism?

There are a variety of treatment options available, including:

  • Detoxification: This involves supervised withdrawal from alcohol, often in a medical setting, to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.
  • Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs: These programs provide a structured environment for people to learn about addiction, develop coping skills, and receive therapy and support.
  • Behavioral therapies: Including therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational interviewing, these can help people change their attitudes and behaviors.
  • Medications: Certain medications can help manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Mutual support groups: Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery provide support and encouragement from peers who have experienced similar struggles.
  • Counseling and support: Individual, group, and family counseling can help address underlying issues that may contribute to alcoholism and provide ongoing support.

Importance of Personalized Treatment for Sustainable Recovery

The best approach to treating alcoholism and getting help to answer the question “is alcoholism a disease?” will depend on the individual’s needs and circumstances. It’s important to seek medical help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses both physical and psychological aspects of alcoholism.

Getting Treatment For Alcoholism At Essence Healthcare

Most people with cognitive impairment show at least some improvement in brain structure and functioning within a year of abstinence, though some people take much longer, depending on how severe and long-lasting the alcoholism was.

Alcoholism is treatable with the right care and support. No matter what symptoms you may have or how long you may have been struggling, we will be with you every step of the way during your recovery. Our caring and supportive staff will help you create an individualized plan that may include behavioral therapy, medication, or other treatments that will help you get started on the path to healing and recovery.

Reach Out for Unwavering Support

You or your loved one do not have to deal with the side effects of substance abuse disorders alone. Contact us at Essence Healthcare today for more information or answers to the question of “is alcoholism a disease?”, along with various forms of treatment available.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.