Alcohol abuse is a very dangerous condition in that it can cause many problems in a person's life and affect many aspects of their lifestyle. Alcoholism (or alcohol abuse) somehow affects everyone's life at some point in time; through a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even personal encounters. Alcohol abuse, as a medical diagnosis, refers to a pattern of behavior characterized by excessive alcohol consumption. This consumption can occur at regular intervals, regular weekend intervals, or during binges, which are considered as being intoxicated for at least two successive days. Difficulty in stopping, reducing the amount of alcohol use, and impaired social/occupational role functioning are all characteristics of alcohol abuse.
A number of theories in the medical field are used to explain alcohol abuse. These are the biologic-genetic model, learning/social model, the psychodynamic model, and the multidimensional model (McFarland 457). Each different model, for alcoholism have varied explanations as to how and why people use and abuse alcohol.
The biologic-genetic model states that there is a specific genetic vulnerability for alcoholism. There has been extensive studies on factors in the genes that could determine or influence the use of alcohol from generation to generation. However, these studies have shown no hard evidence for an association between alcoholism and inherited factors.
The learning and social model proposes that alcoholism is a process that is slowly developed within a social situation or atmosphere. This model of alcoholism has also been researched by using both human and animal subjects. A conditioning model of alcohol tolerance has demonstrated that specific cues from the environment such as odor, sight, and taste, produce a stimulus that results in alcohol consumption. If ethanol, the addictive ingredient in alcohol , is not supplied, a psychological compensatory response called a craving is produced.
The psychodynamic model of alcoholism proposes that problematic child rearing practices produce psychosexual maldevelopment and dependence/independece conflicts. It is believed that while habitual alcohol use is in process, the habitual drinker may use behavior such as exaggeration, denial, rationalization, and affiliation with socially deviant groups. Results of these behaviors may include decreased work efficiency, job loss, alienation of friends and family, or even hospitalization.
The multidimensional model of alcoholism combines the interaction of biological, behavioral, and sociocultural factors. These three factors contribute together to make the strongest model, in which most alcoholics fit. The biological model relates to the progression from occasional initial relief drinking, to the increase of tolerance, and from loss of memory during heavy drinking periods to an urgency of drinking. The behavioral model is helpful in the identification of high-risk situations, in which alcoholics are most likely to be ritualistally drinking. Sociocultural factors are present in peer interaction around drinking as a primary activity for entertainment. This can lead to the preference of drinking for social interaction. Ideas such as this are influenced greatly, and shaped by media through commercials, television portrayal of alcohol use as a coping skill, and the belief that the use of alcohol to reduce life's stress is socially acceptable. Another area in which alcohol is looked at as all right, comes during the aging process. The death of a spouse, job relocation, retirement, or loss of health put older people at risk of alcoholism and is identified as having late-onset alcoholism (McFarland 458).
Alcoholism can be divided into several subtypes. Gamma alcoholism applies to binge drinkers who alternate periods of sobriety and drunkenness. An example of gamma alcoholism would be a college student who engages in heavy binge drinking. In contrast, beta alcoholism is manifested by physical complications of chronic alcohol use such as cirrhosis, weakening of the liver, heart, stomach, and esophagus. An example of a beta alcoholic would be a housewife who is a maintenance drinker and experiences withdrawal symptoms. A number of issues also arises among characteristics of alcoholism. Behavioral problems are often visible signs. Poor school grades, rambling speech, disciplinary problems, excessive fighting, truancy, vandalism, and hyperactivity are all possible signs of alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a disease that is very serious and complicated. The curing of alcoholism is a difficult process which requires accepting the presence of the condition, self realization, and support. As a person begins to achieve control over their drinking problem, by implementing new coping strategies, and increasing a sense of competence and hope, a new phase of life is entered.