Alcoholism is an insidious disease, a term derived from Latin which literally translates to “having the quality of entering unnoticed or gradually”. This accurately captures the progress of alcoholism, which is often unnoticed until it has taken a strong hold on someone’s life. This insidious nature is why it is considered a disease, as it usually takes a long time before someone with an addiction to alcohol is able to even begin to recognize that it is a problem.
At its core, alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol. People suffering from alcoholism will feel an uncontrollable urge to drink steadily and heavily. They will continue to drink despite adverse effects, such as their health deteriorating, their professional and personal relationships being impacted, and money being wasted on alcohol. These issues can remain unmanaged for years if the person does not seek professional help.
The number of people affected by alcoholism increases every year. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 18 million people in the United States suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Additionally, roughly 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes.
Alcoholism is a complex disease that has no single cause, with many factors working together to put someone at risk. These can include their environment, genetics, mental health history, family history, and even the chemistry of the person’s brain. There are some individuals whose genetic risk factors and lifestyle behaviors make them particularly vulnerable to the development of an alcohol addiction.
Although an individual’s risk of developing alcoholism is not always within their control, there are ways in which people can reduce their risk. These can include changing their environment to the extent possible, so that places and situations associated with drinking, such as bars, become less accessible. Additionally, limiting the amount of drinks consumed and taking regular breaks from drinking are both helpful practices.
Tiding over an alcohol addiction can be difficult, as the disease itself is insidious, and it can take a long time to recognize the symptoms. However, there are resources available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), or the individual’s doctor, who can help create a plan for someone to get back and stay sober. Joining an AA support group can also be immensely helpful through the difficult process of recovery from an alcohol addiction.
It is essential to be mindful of the fact that alcoholism is a serious and insidious disease. For those or their loved ones who may suspect they have an alcohol addiction, seeking professional help is always a wise idea. Millions of people have managed to turn their lives around through the help of treatment, and it is important to note that recovery is possible if people put in the effort.