What is alcoholism?… Alcohol is the popular name for ethanol or ethyl alcohol. The term Alcoholism refers to every degree of excessive drinking from that of the party guest who drinks too much to that of the hospitalized mental patient whose nervous system has been severely damaged by alcohol.
WHO (1969) has defined alcoholics as “excessive drinkers whose dependence on alcohol has attained such a degree that they show, noticeable mental disturbances or an interference with their mental and bodily health, their IP relations and their smooth social and economic functioning”.
An individual becomes an alcoholic of an addictive type when he or she drinks excessively, when drinking leads to intoxication, and most importantly when drinking becomes a preferred way to solve problems. There is always a transitional period during which excessive drinking slips into alcohol addiction. It is often difficult to say when this transition has been completed.
The alcohol addicts drink steadily or frequently, remain drunk for days, weeks and even months. This continuous intake of alcohol leads to personality disturbances, creation of unrealistic self-image and blunting of emotional sensitivity. When the alcohol content in the bloodstream reaches 0.1% the individual is considered as intoxicated. His muscular coordination and vision are impaired.
Stages of Alcohol Dependence
Jellinek has found following stages which are common in development of alcohol addiction.
- Pre Alcoholic Symptomatic Phase
It is the initial stage and last from two months up to two years. The beginner who drinks for social reasons or merely on account of curiosity finds that it relieve him of anxiety and tension and as a result learns to use alcohol as relief measure. Gradually he begins to experience an increased tolerance for alcohol and needs a large amount for the same stage of sedation. Thus there is a slow shift from infrequent or light to heavy drinking.
- Prodromal Phase of Alcoholism
This phase is marked out by sudden onset of blackouts. Occasionally average drinkers experience amnesic episodes when they drink excessively during a state of emotional and physical exhaustion. The drinker may carry out his normal activities after drinking but will have no memories of the event next day. Certain other related behaviors are –
- Avoidance of reference of alcohol in his conversation.
- Surreptitious Drinking in which the drinker seeks occasions for having few drinks unknown to others for the fear that they will misjudge him.
- Preoccupations will alcohol which takes form of worry about whether there will be enough to drink at the social gathering he is a ding to attend.
- Crucial Phase of Alcoholism
This stage characterized by loss of control over drinking which means any consumption of alcohol seems to trigger chain reaction that continues until the individual is either too intoxicated or too sick to drink anymore. There is marked lowering of the drinker’s self-esteem and he may attempt to compensate it by extravagant expenditure and projecting blames on others for his difficulties. It is kith and kin abandon him. He is dismissed from his job and isolation increases. There is reduction in sex drive, this result in the alcoholic’s increased hostility towards his spouse which is known as Alcoholic Jealousy Syndrome.
Also Read: Causes of Alcoholism
- Chronic Phase of Alcoholism
In this phase he lives only to drink. His body is so conditioned to alcohol that abstaining from it leads to withdrawal symptoms. Persistent fears and tremors occur. An urgent hospitalization is a must. Person is no longer selective about the brand and can drink anything from hair tonic to rectified spirit.