Alcoholism: Is It a Chronic Disease or Behavioral Condition?

Dr. Purushothaman
September 10, 2013

In today's society, one of the most pervasive issues at hand is alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction touches every community in every state across the United States of America, including Florida. It knows no boundaries: all races, creeds, income levels, religions, and sexual orientations have been touched by alcoholism, to the tune of billions of dollars a year. And while it is easy to blame the addict for the consequences of their addiction, most people don't understand that many alcoholics want to quit but can't.
Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a chronic disease that affects the brain and the body in ways that render the alcoholic powerless to stop drinking on their own. Scientific studies have shown that alcohol abuse has both short term and long term effects on the brain which alter brain chemistry making it impossible for an alcoholic to quit through sheer willpower alone. As a matter of fact, many experts in the field of drug and alcohol addiction recovery now classify alcoholism as a chronic brain disease rather than as a behavioral condition or voluntary action. This is because the brain's structure and function are actually altered after long term alcohol use. It is these changes that cause the intense cravings addicts experience when they enter into a state of withdrawal.
And intense cravings are only the beginning. Withdrawal is an extremely uncomfortable process that the body undergoes when there is no longer a steady supply of alcohol to stimulate it. Withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, muscle cramps, fatigue and nerve pain to name a few. Withdrawal symptoms worsen over time rather than improve, which makes it impossible for alcoholics to stop drinking on their own. As a matter of fact, withdrawal can become so severe that it can cause heart attack, stroke, and even death.
Because drug addiction is a chronic disease and withdrawal is such a painful process, most alcoholics refuse to seek treatment voluntarily. It has to be medically managed just like any other chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and others. Alcoholism treatment centers are designed to help alcoholics get sober through well balanced programs that utilize a safe, state of the art, medically managed detox center Florida to manage acute withdrawal symptoms followed by a comprehensive behavior therapy program to address post acute withdrawal and the underlying causes of addiction with a gradual transition to lower levels of care. Eventually, patients move from the addiction treatment center to a sober living facility where he or she continues to learn to live life and cope with stress without alcohol.
Though alcoholism is a chronic disease and relapse does happen, additional treatment through alcohol rehabilitation centers and ongoing therapy can often bring the disease back under control. The key is to never give up. Successful treatment requires a committed and comprehensive alcohol recovery program and dedication on the part of the addict and their support system, both family and friends. Alcoholism is a chronic disease, but can be managed with the right care.

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