Alcohol may cause one to feel high, relaxed, or sleepy, but its long-term effects can change the way the brain reacts to alcohol. Thus, alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use leads to 80,000 deaths each year in the United States, making alcohol use a leading cause of preventable death.
Widely available in all 50 states and advertised regularly, most people tend to forget that alcohol is an addictive drug. Many drinkers are able to control their alcohol use, but for those who can’t, the consequences could be devastating.
Heavy alcohol use, if left untreated, can affect every aspect of one’s life. It can take an enormous emotional toll on individuals, along with his or her family. It can also put a great financial stress on the health care system and the society as a whole. A chronic life-long disease, alcohol dependence can be both progressive and life threatening.
A central nervous system depressant, alcohol consumption has been recorded since ancient times. Unlike most other psychoactive drugs, alcohol is legal, frequently advertised and is easy to obtain. Alcoholism, classified as a substance abuse disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), combines the elements of both physical disease and mental illness. The phrase “alcohol abuse” refers to a behavior pattern. A person dependent on alcohol continues to use alcohol despite experiencing negative consequences, including job difficulties, blackouts, health problems and DUI arrests. Following are the two forms of alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): Commonly referred to as alcoholism, AUD involves a person drinking large amounts of alcohol over a long-term period.
- Binge drinking: Binge drinking involves an individual consuming large amount of alcohol with the goal of getting drunk. For women, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as consisting of four or more drinks consumed in a two-hour period.