How Alcohol Addiction Develops

By: David B Smith

Alcoholism is a chronic disease that has the power to break the career, family and physical health of the addict over a course of time. Thankfully though the start of full blown alcoholism is not difficult to spot and can be treated.

The advancement of the disease can often be tracked over three stages - an early, middle and later stage - and the sooner the addicted person or his or her family can spot the symptoms, the easier it should be to stop the development of the disease.

In the early stage of alcohol dependency the individual drinks purely to relax or to deal with a fleeting problem that is responsible for anxiety. When he drinks it lessens the pain and he feels wonderful, and so drinking becomes the standard mechanism through which he deals with his issues.

Gradually this becomes into a steady habit, but even close family members can easily overlook this development. The drinker, for the majority of the time, comes across as normal during this stage, and indeed may come across as more confident and stable.

If challenged about his level of alcohol consumption, the early-stage addict tends to rationalise his drinking in a way that can be totally convincing to those nearest to him, at least for the short term. Over time though, the loss of control of the tongue and posture indicate unambiguously that he has a drinking problem, and indeed that he is entering middle stage alcohol dependency.

The middle stage of alcoholism is where the patient develops a full blown physical dependency on the drug. The longing to put away alcohol with time increases, and if the individual had endevoured to contain his drinking in the early stage, now that resistance wholly gives way.

As the alcohol intake increases, so the patient's physical ability to process that alchol is concurrently reduced. Consequently the middle-stage alcoholic can get drunk without much effort, even on small amounts of alcohol. By this stage it should be apparent to one and all, and even to the alcoholic himself, that he has a problem, though he might feel at this stage that he has already lost the conflict.

The final stage of alcoholism is marked by obsessive drinking and a desperate avoidance of having to face the problem. Everyone around the alcoholic now identifies the problem. When they confront the drinker, he will no longer be unconcerned, but may become aggressively defensive or even violent.

Physical health systematically degenerates during this final stage, eventually ending in death if the disease is not treated. The alcoholic's immunity levels decrease along with his desire for food, and so he becomes increasingly vulnerable to a variety of regular diseases. Moreover, specific conditions caused directly by the alcohol consumption continue to to develop - liver disease, cancers, brain damage, etc.

The one consoling factor for the friends and family of someone in the final stage of alcohol dependency is the traditional understanding is that healing only comes after the alcoholic has hit 'rock bottom', and so the further the alcoholic degenerates, the closer (we hope) he is getting to rock bottom. Having said that, according to the same wisdom, only the alcoholic himself can clarify where that 'rock bottom' point is set, and some people just never seem to reach it.

Addictions
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