Definition of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is defined as the addiction of consumption of alcoholic drinks, in terms of,
- Taking alcohol frequently since long time.
- Inability to control drinking once it has begun.
- When a person tries to stop drinking, physical dependence manifests as withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, tremors, palpitation, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness.
- Tolerance or need to consume more quantity alcohol to achieve the same effects.
- A variety of social and/or legal problems arising from alcohol use.
Worldwide Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, suggests
- The harmful use of alcohol results in approximately 2.5 million deaths each year.
- Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in 200 others.
- Almost 4% of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol, greater than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis.
- Alcohol is also associated with many serious social issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse,
and absenteeism in the workplace.
- Worldwide, about 11.5% of drinkers have weekly heavy episodic drinking occasions
(Table 7), with men outnumbering women by four to one.
- Alcohol consumption is estimated to cause from 20% to 50% of cirrhosis of the liver,
epilepsy, poisonings, road traffic accidents, violence and several types of cancer.
Alcohol abuse in India
India once had a reputation as having a culture that promoted abstinence towards drugs like alcohol. Things have changed and there is now serious problems arising due to alcohol abuse, 15 people die every day – or one every 96 minutes – from the effects of drinking alcohol, reveals an India Spend analysis of 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the latest available.
The per capita consumption of alcohol in India increased 38 percent, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 liters in 2010-12, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, which also revealed that more than 11 percent of Indians were binge drinkers, against the global average of 16 percent.
Why people become addicted to alcohol?
Cause of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a result of a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental and social factors.
Alcoholism and genes
There are lots of studies suggests that certainly there is a link between genetics and alcoholism. People having family history of alcohol consumptions are more prone to have alcohol addiction even they are grown up in the non-alcoholic environment. However, the connection of an actual gene is yet to be verified as one of the main causes of alcoholism.
Alcoholism and families
Other similar scientific studies have shown that children of alcoholics are more likely to develop alcohol problems compared to the general population. The prevalence of alcoholism in first-degree relatives is three to four times more compared to the general population. Even if a person has a long family history of alcoholism it does not mean that he or she will become an alcoholic. Alcoholism remains to be a result of environmental and genetic factors. Genetics only increased the risk of being one but it doesn’t have to shape a person’s destiny.
Alcoholism and youngsters
Usually youngsters start drinking alcohol because their friends drink. By adapting friend’s habit they feel that they are adapting the environment. So peer pressure is the strong cause of alcoholism in young people.
Alcoholism and stress
In recent scenario lifestyles generated psychological disorder like stress, anxiety and depression also play significant role to make a person alcoholic. As alcohol produces depressive state and euphoria, it gives temporary relaxation from their psychological symptoms.
What alcohol does in your body?
As soon as alcohol enters onto blood stream it crosses blood brain barrier.The blood-brain barrier (it is a highly selective semi permeable membrane barrier that separates the circulating blood from the brain, prevents many toxins from entering in brain) does not prevent alcohol from entering the brain, so the brain alcohol level will quickly become equivalent to the blood alcohol level. Alcohol potentially affects the entire brain, all at once.
Alcohol interferes with the actions of various neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemical present in neurons by which signals from the brain transmitted to the target organ. There are basically two types of neurotransmitter one which transmit signal to increase target organ’s activity are called ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter, another which transmit signal to decrease the target organ’s activity called ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter.
Now when you take alcohol as soon as it crosses blood brain barrier it inhibits activity and action of excitatory neurotransmitter and increases activity and action of inhibitory neurotransmitter result in state of euphoria.
Euphoria is an affective state in which a person experiences pleasure or excitement and intense feelings of well-being and happiness. That has been reported during the early (10–15 min) phase of alcohol consumption.
90% or more of the alcohol a person drinks is metabolized by the body, mainly metabolized in the liver and a little bit in the stomach. The rest is excreted unchanged by the kidneys into urine, by sweat glands, and by the lungs as a person breathes out.
How people become addicted to alcohol
Neuroadaptation refers to changes or ‘adaptations’ that occur in the brain for repeated stimuli.
In context of alcohol or any drug, when it is used in excessive quantity beyond body’s need, brain start developing tolerance or adaptation for the chemistry of that substance to offset that drug effect.
Neuroadaption has multiple stages, once neuroadaptation has occurred, removal of alcohol from the organism leads to a withdrawal syndrome.
Steps of Neuroadaption
Sensitization is learning process in which repeated administration of a stimulus results in the progressive increase of a response. In terms of alcoholism sensitization is the first step when you start taking alcohol as liking, due to the repeated exposure of the stimuli (liking) turns into wanting. Following repeated drug exposure, this wanting becomes stronger and transforms into pathological craving for the drug.
A person who is chronically exposed to alcohol develops tolerance to its effect on brain and body. Once tolerance to the pleasurable effects of alcohol develops, the person requires gradually more quantity of alcohol to produce the same effect previously experienced at less quantity.
After long and chronic exposure to the alcohol person become so dependent that if he tries to stop or cutoff the quantity he develops set of symptoms labeled as withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms are classified into three stages depending on the time of their onset.
- Stage 1 (mild) develops after 6 to 7 hours of last drink:
Anxiety, insomnia, nausea, abdominal pain and/or vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, tremors, depression, foggy thinking, mood swings, and heart palpitations
- Stage 2 (moderate) develops after 12 to 24 hours of last drink:
Increased blood pressure, body temperature and respiration, irregular heart rate, mental confusion, sweating, irritability, and heightened mood disturbances
- Stage 3 (severe/delirium tremens) develops in first one or two days of last drink:
Hallucinations, fever, seizures, severe confusion, and agitation
Withdrawal symptoms are the major cause for relapse to alcohol-seeking behavior.
Effects of alcohol addiction
Acute Symptoms of Alcoholism
In the brain, alcohol interacts with various neurotransmitters to alter nerve function. Alcohol’s depressive effects result in
- Difficulty walking,
- Poor balance,
- Slurring of speech,
- Poor coordination
- Impairment of peripheral vision.
- At higher alcohol levels, a person’s breathing and heart rates may be slowed and vomiting may occur (with a high risk of the vomit being breathed into the lungs, potentially resulting in aspiration pneumonia.)
- Still higher alcohol levels may result in coma and death.
Chronic Symptoms of Alcoholism
Long-term use of alcohol affects virtually every organ system of the body:
- Alcohol causes sleep disturbances, sleep quality is diminished.
- Numbness and tingling may occur in the arms and legs.
- Wernicke’s syndrome and Korsakoff’s syndrome, which can occur together or separately, are due to the low thiamine (vitamin B-1) levels because alcohal prevents vitamin B-1 absorption and storage. Which is characterized by mental confusion, amnesia (a permanent gap in memory), and impaired short-term memory. Other symptoms include ataxia (weakness in limbs or lack of muscle coordination, unsteady gait), slow walking, rapid, tremor-like eye movements, and paralysis of eye muscles. Fine motor function (e.g., hand or finger movements) may be diminished, and sense of smell also may be affected. In the advanced stages, coma can occur.
- Inflammation of stomach, may lead to ulcers and hemorrhage in advance stages.
- Acid reflux from stomach to food pipe (esophagus)
- Dilatation of blood vessels of lower end of food pipe (esophagus) may cause uncontrollable hemorrhage (esophageal varices)
- Inflammation of pancrease (Pancreatitis)
- Malabsorption leads to malnutrition
- Liver complaints such as fatty liver (enlarge and fill with fat), inflammation (hepatitis) or cirrhosis (fibrous scar tissue develops in liver)
Blood and immunity–
Alcohol may cause changes to all the types of blood cells. Red blood cells become abnormally large. White blood cells (important for fighting infections) decrease in number, resulting in a weakened immune system. This places alcohol-dependent individuals at increased risk for infections and may account in part for the increased risk of cancer faced by people with alcoholism. Platelets and blood clotting factors are affected, causing an increased risk of bleeding.
Small amounts of alcohol cause a drop in blood pressure, but with increased consumption, alcohol raises blood pressure into a dangerous range (hypertension). High levels of fats circulating in the bloodstream increase the risk of heart disease. Heavy drinking results in an increase in heart size, weakening of the heart muscle, abnormal heart rhythms, a risk of blood clots forming within the chambers of the heart, and a greatly increased risk of stroke due to a blood clot entering the circulatory system and blocking a brain blood vessel.
Reproductive system –
Heavy drinking has a negative effect on fertility in both men and women. It decreases testicle and ovary size and interferes with both sperm and egg production.
Pregnancy and Alcoholism
Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy contributes adversely to a fetus’s development. Abnormalities in infants and children associated with maternal alcohol consumption may include
- Prenatal and postnatal physical retardation,
- Neurological deficits (e.g., impaired attention control),
- Mental retardation,
- Behavioral problems (e.g., impulsivity),
- Cognitive difficulties (e.g., lower IQ scores, more learning problems, poorer short-term memory functioning)
- Skull or brain malformations and facial malformations (e.g., a thin upper lip and elongated flattened midface).
Check yourself – Are you Addicted to Alcohol?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a diagnostic tool for mental disorders issued from American Psychiatric Association.
It has 11 criteria for diagnosis of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when a patient answers “yes” to two or more of the following questions.
|The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders |
|1||Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?|
|2||More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?|
|3||Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?|
|4||Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?|
|5||Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?|
|6||Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?|
|7||Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?|
|8||More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?|
|9||Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?|
|10||Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?|
|11||Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?|
|The presence of at least 2 of these symptoms indicates an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). |
The severity of the AUD is defined as:
Mild: The presence of 2 to 3 symptoms
Moderate: The presence of 4 to 5 symptoms
Severe: The presence of 6 or more symptoms
Treatment for Alcoholism
The person with alcoholism often resists that he or she has an alcohol problem and needs to stop drinking. Treatment cannot be forced on adults unless it is a condition imposed by a court of law.
The alcohol-dependent person will most likely develop withdrawal symptoms so first aim of the treatment is to relive withdrawal effects. Withdrawal will be different for different individuals, depending on the severity of the alcoholism as measured by the quantity of alcohol ingested daily and the length of time the patient has been alcohol dependent.
Types of Treatment
This is part of alcoholism rehab. Aim of behavior treatment is to change drinking behavior through counseling also known as alcohol counseling. Behavioral treatments involve working with a health professional to identify and help change the behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. Behavioral treatments share certain features, which can include:
- Developing the skills needed to stop or reduce drinking
- Helping to build a strong social support system
- Working to set reachable goals
- Coping with or avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse
- Naltrexone can help people reduce heavy drinking.
- Acamprosate makes it easier to maintain abstinence.
- Disulfiram blocks the breakdown (metabolism) of alcohol by the body, causing unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and flushing of the skin. Those unpleasant effects can help some people avoid drinking while taking disulfiram.
Not all people will respond to medications, but for a subset of individuals, they can be an important tool in overcoming alcohol dependence.
Homeopathy Treatment of Alcoholism
Homeopathy treatment is a natural form of medicine based on the principle of symptom similarity. Homeopathic remedies are derived from natural sources and are diluted and potentized to make them safe. Homeopathic literature says that when a remedy, which covers your symptoms very well, is administered, it is able to affect a cure rapidly and gently, even of long standing and inveterate cases.
In homeopathy, medicine is selected on the basis of patient’s disease symptoms, physical general symptoms (like thirst, thermal sensitivity, perspiration, food cravings and versions etc), and mental emotional symptoms. As we know everyone has his own nature, different life circumstance and different response to those circumstances. The homeopathy doctor takes into consideration everything to treat the patient holistically.
Homeopathy is a wonderful support for those withdrawing from drug or alcohol addiction. Not only it relieves the immediate symptoms, it also works to heal the underlying cause, whether inherited, acquired, emotional or psychological and gradually helps the patient to restore his health.
Homeopathic Medicines for Alcoholism and Alcohol withdrawal Symptoms:
- Nux vomica
- Hyoscyamus niger
- Arsenic album
- Cannabis indica
- Sulphuric acid
- Ranunculus bulbosus
- China officinalis
- Cocculus indicus
- Coffea cruda
- Zicum metallicum
There are hundreds of medicines in homeopathy for alcoholism. Few are discussed here.
- Nux vomica is the great anti-alcoholic remedy.
- When patient has tremor, headache, and bad taste.
- It also corresponds to delirium tremens, where every little noise frightens and the victim finds no rest in any place, springs up at night and has frightful visions.
- The tremor is marked with ugliness and irritability and gastric disturbance.
- It is a remedy to be given while the patient is still under the influence of liquor or any of the stages of alcoholism.
- It has visions of ghosts, with great weakness
- Diseases from overuse of alcohol. Liver cirrhosis.
- Patients must have their accustomed drinks
- Great tremulousness and weakness.
- Suicidal tendency and constantly annoyed by bugs and vermin that he sees on his person and unceasingly tries to brush them off.
- Arsenic patient is restless, anxious and chilly.
- When delirium tremens occurs this is usually one of the first remedies indicated.
- The delirium is constant and loquacious,
- The pulse is small and quick and compressible, the skin is cold and clammy,
- The patient is tremulous and picks constantly at objects in the air.
- Marked sexual excitement, desire to expose person and fear of poison.
- The vision are those of persecution, are terrifying, and the patient makes efforts to escape.
- Constant insomnia is an excellent indication; outburst of laughter alerting with weeping may also occur.
- A very reliable remedy in acute alcoholism.
- Some violence, talkativeness and active mind
- Subjects crowd upon it,
- Delusions and hallucination relate to exaggerated subjects time,space, etc.
- Face flushed, pupils dilated, perspires easily.
- This is a remedy indicated in “old sinners” who have had the delirium tremens over and over again.
- There is a constant expression of fright or terror, they have visions of animals springing up everywhere, they see ghosts, the sleep is uneasy, the breathing is Sertorius.
- Opium has a choking sensation in throat which awakens suddenly from sleep.
- The prevailing mental characteristic is terror, all hallucinations and illusions are fright and terror producing.
- It has visions of animals coming at him from every corner and he tries to escape.
- Suicidal tendency constantly annoyed by bugs and vermin that he sees upon his person and unceasingly tries to brush them off.
- This is the remedy for chronic alcoholism.
- Patients who are pale and shriveled and cold, whose stomach will not tolerate the slightest amount of food.
- They cannot drink water unless it be well whisked.
- They are quick and hasty in everything, and have a great and constant craving for brandy. It comes in long after Nux vomica, and other cures have failed over and over again.
- It suits the sour breath and vomiting of alcoholic dyspepsia.
- One of our most effective agents for the removal of bad effects from the abuse of alcoholic beverages.
- It is very useful in acute stage of delirium tremens.
- It has the calming effect.
- Aggravation from motion, coitus, pressure touch
- Headaches with sensation head swollen
- Loquacity. Agaricus has great mental excitement and incoherent talking, immoderate gaity alternates with melancholy.
- Perception of relative size of objects is lost, takes long steps and jumps over small objects as if they were trunks of trees-a small hole appears as a frightful chasm, a spoonful of water an immense lake.
- Physical strength is increased, can lift heavy loads.
- Chorea – involuntary muscle spasms and twitching that ceases in sleep
This list of remedies and symptoms for alcoholism is neither exhaustive, nor complete. Please consult your general physician in person to find out about alcoholism symptoms, alcohol withdrawal, rehab and treatment centers for alcoholics. For homeopathy treatment of alcoholism, consult a qualified homeopath/doctor in person.