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Definition of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is the compulsive need an individual has to drink alcoholic beverages to excess, over and over again. Alcoholism is both physical (physiological) and mental (psychological).

Individuals addicted to alcohol are known as alcoholics, although sometimes the terms alcohol abuser and alcohol dependence are also used. Alcoholics driven by both physical and mental need to continue using the addictive substance, regardless of the consequences.

It’s impossible to tell in advance if any particular individual will become addicted to alcohol. There is some evidence of a genetic component in alcoholism and statistics certainly indicate children of alcoholics are more apt to become problem or alcoholic drinkers. On the other hand, not all children of alcoholics become alcoholic and not every alcoholic has a parent who is also alcoholic. There is also some evidence that people can drink themselves into alcoholism—that is, at least some who drink to excess over time will become alcoholic. Given the uncertainties, the only certain way to avoid alcoholism is to avoid alcohol altogether.

The only solution for the alcoholic is to quit using alcohol in any form entirely. This is most often successfully accomplished through some sort of treatment program. The best-known and most successful treatment program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA members practice the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These Steps most often learned and practiced through AA meetings. AA meetings can be found all over the world.

There are also programs that eschew the 12 Step approach and provide other methods, largely based on psychology and/or self-control.

Alcoholics may benefit from residential treatment centers, which generally require stays of up to 30 days or longer. Stays in these centers are most often paid for by the family of the alcoholic and are not cheap. The goal of these centers is to put the alcoholic in a supportive environment while new habits of behavior are learned. Most centers also use the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as part of their program.

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