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Our pages are created to provide medically accurate information that is intended to complement, not replace or substitute in any way the services of your physician.  Any application of the recommendations set forth in the following pages is at the reader's discretion and sole risk. Before undergoing medical treatment, you should consult with your doctor, who can best assess your individual needs, symptoms and treatment. 

Alcoholism and Treatments for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is an addictive dependency on alcohol characterised by craving (a strong need to drink); loss of control (being unable to stop); physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms; and tolerance (increasing difficulty of becoming drunk). Alcoholism is chronic desease, meaning that it lasts a person's lifetime, usually follows a predictable course and it has typical symptoms. Like with many other diseases, the risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person's genes and by his or her lifestyle.

Alcoholism is a life-threatening problem that often ends in death, particularly through liver disease (such as liver cirrhosis) or kidney disease, internal bleeding, brain deterioration, alcohol poisoning, it can actually increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as cause many other health problems related to alcoholism. Heavy drinking can cause many accidents and suicide.
The physical symptoms when withdrawing from alcohol are seen to be equal to those experienced during withdrawal from heroin. Alcoholics who try to cut down on drinking rarely succeed. Cutting out alcohol--that is, abstaining--is usually the best course for recovery. People who are not alcohol dependent but who have experienced alcohol-related problems may be able to limit the amount they drink. If they can't stay within those limits, they need to stop drinking altogether.

A drink is: 

  • a 12-ounce bottle of beer; 
  • a 5-ounce glass of wine; or 
  • a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor. 
These limits may be too high for some people who have certain medical problems or who are older. Talk with your doctor about the limit that is right for you. 

Treatments for alcoholism include detoxification programs run by medical institutions. These may involve stays of a number of weeks in specialized hospital wards where drugs may be used to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
After detoxification, various forms of group therapy or psychotherapy can be used to deal with underlying psychological issues leading to alcohol dependence. Aversion therapies may be supported by drugs like Disulfiram, which causes a strong and prompt hangover whenever alcohol is consumed. Naltrexone may improve compliance with abstinance planning. The standard pharmocopeia of anti-depressants, anxiolytics and other psychotropic drugs treat underlying mood disorders, neuroses and psychoses associated with alcoholic symptoms.