Alcoholism does not look like a typical chronic disease. Alcoholics often deny there is anything wrong with them, which can make it even more challenging for individuals to accept classification as an alcoholic is accurate. Once an alcoholic recognizes their condition, there are treatment centers that can help these individuals learn to manage their condition.
Alcoholism and chronic illnesses have many similarities that have led mental health, and healthcare professionals to label alcoholism as a disease. Keep reading for a more detailed explanation of why alcoholism can be considered a disease.
What is a Chronic Disease?
Chronic disease is a condition that typically lasts a person’s entire life, has no cure, and has a significant effect on a person’s quality of life. Chronic diseases cannot be prevented by vaccines and can only be managed with medication and changes to a person’s lifestyle. Common chronic diseases include arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
What is Alcoholism?
A person is defined as an alcoholic if they frequently drink to excess, have difficulty stopping, spend a large amount of their time attempting to acquire alcohol, and have experienced dangerous or risky circumstances because of their drinking. Those with alcoholism cannot control their drinking and have their daily lives negatively impacted by alcohol consumption. There are several other symptoms, but a person needs to display only a few of them to be classified as an alcoholic.
Reasons Alcoholism is Considered a Disease
Alcoholism sufferers, similar to those with conditions like diabetes and heart disease, have genetic and environmental factors that increase the likelihood of their developing the illness. A person is more likely to become an alcoholic if alcoholism runs in their family. Similarly, a person is more likely to develop conditions like diabetes and heart disease if they have family members who have these conditions. Environmental factors that put a person at risk of developing alcoholism include being in an abusive relationship or living with people who are alcoholics or exhibit binge drinking behavior regularly.
Chronic disease also involves several lifestyle risk factors. For example, a person who does not exercise or eat a nutrient-rich diet is more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Similarly, those who engage in binge-drinking behavior are more likely to become alcoholics.
All chronic diseases become worse without treatment and can ultimately result in death. The same is true for alcoholism. Without treatment, alcoholics will continue to drink to excess even in the face of serious consequences. They may suffer from alcohol poisoning, develop cirrhosis of the liver, or experience heart failure.
Treating the Condition
Like with any chronic condition, alcoholism needs to be managed for the rest of the alcoholic’s life. Failure to do so can cause the person to relapse. Treatment typically involves changing the person’s behavior through counseling, medication to decrease binge drinking, and group therapy. It is important that those dealing with alcoholism find a network of supportive individuals to keep them accountable and help them through the difficult process of recovery.
The Bottom Line
Alcoholism is a serious chronic disease that can cause severe physical and emotional issues. It affects the lives of the people close to the alcoholic and can quickly spiral out of control without treatment. Finding treatment through rehabilitation centers and support groups can help give an alcoholic their life back.