Alcoholism Disease

By: Vivian Villalba

At least since the beginning of AA, there has been controversy about the alcoholism disease model. Some say that alcohol dependence is merely a matter of bad behavior. Others say it happens because a person is weak or lacks will power. However, there is some basis for the alcoholism disease argument.

One reason given for the alcoholism disease is that a person has a physical difference within them that changes the way they react to alcohol. Dr. Silkwood, of AA, concluded that the alcoholism disease was due to an inborn allergy to alcoholism.

Later, it was thought by others that the problem was a genetic one. While the scientific study on this is new, there is some indication that heredity does play a part. The idea is that genetics would predispose a person to the alcoholism disease, but other factors would have to come into play for the disease to take hold.

Some experts disagree with the physical alcoholism disease model. They believe that alcoholism is actually a mental illness. They point to Freudian concepts to prove their point. These include his work on the oral stage of development, and the behaviors of denial and projection. An alcoholic denies having a problem, and projects the source of problems on others.

Many lay persons believe in the alcoholism disease characteristic of an addictive personality. This would mean that a person who is compelled to engage in one addictive behavior is often drawn to other addictive substances and behaviors. It may be surprising, but research at present does not bear this out.

Possibly the most accepted alcoholism disease concept is that people are not predisposed to alcoholism until they take their first drink. They then have a reaction to the alcohol, based upon the dopamine levels in their brains, that induces them to seek more of the same reaction.

There are several ideas that different alcoholism disease theories share. One is that alcoholics are different than non-alcoholics. This may be a predisposition or something that occurs after drinking. The point is that they are not the same as people who do not drink or who drink moderately.

Also, people who suffer from alcoholism disease have intense cravings and have little control over their drinking behavior. Another factor considered to be a problem in any alcoholism disease model is that alcoholics never fully recover. Once the mechanism starts that makes them an alcoholic, they will forever be one drink away from the alcoholism disease.

A final idea that all the theories share is that the alcoholism disease will wreak havoc on a person's physical and emotional well-being if not treated. There will be overwhelming personal and social consequences. What is more, the physical consequences can and often do lead to disability or death.

No matter which school of thought you subscribe to, the alcoholism disease can only be seen as devastating. Proper care is necessary for individuals who suffer from the disease. Help is available to everyone. It is just a matter of getting individuals in for treatment.

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