Chronic alcoholism occurs when a person abuses alcohol over a long period of time resulting in serious health, emotional and psychological issues. A person’s dependence on alcohol results from a consistent pattern of alcohol abuse over time. The process usually begins with building a tolerance that leads to excessive drinking. The abusive drinking patterns then lead to physical dependence on alcohol.
Those struggling with chronic alcoholism often have a daily dependence on alcohol that affects their job, relationships and ability to do everyday tasks, like driving. Chronic alcoholics often put themselves and others in danger due to their excessive drinking. They also may exhibit physical symptoms such as tremors or shaking, or commonly “black out” from drinking.
Chronic alcoholics, like many affected by the disease, often deny they have a problem with their drinking. Chronic alcoholism is identified by not only the amount of alcohol a person drinks, but also for how long someone has been abusing alcohol. Chronic alcoholics often need a drink when they wake up, or before they go to bed, and hide alcohol from their friends or family. They have been known to have trouble maintaining employment and experienced alienation from friends and family because of the excessive drinking.
Health issues are one of the most serious problems associated with chronic alcoholism. The most common medical problem stemming from chronic alcoholism is cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is scarred from irreversible damage to the tissue in the liver. Alcohol affects the living tissue in the liver that enables the organ to do its job – such as eliminating harmful toxins in the body and purifying blood.
It also helps develop important nutrients for the body. Chronic alcoholism has also been linked to certain types of cancer, including oral cancer and cancer of the larynx and esophagus. It is also linked to pancreatitis, or swelling of the pancreas, another organ that also helps detoxify the body.
Chronic alcoholism depletes the body of important nutrients over time. Alcohol does not include any nutritional value of note, and it depletes the body of thiamine, among other things, a critical nutrient. Lack of thiamine affects the peripheral nerves and puts people at higher risk for heart disease. Peripheral nerves are connected to body movement and cognitive ability.
Chronic alcoholics also suffer from digestive issues, which lower their ability to process foods to attain the necessary nutritional value one’s body needs to maintain good health. Stoke and diabetes are also linked to the consequences of chronic alcoholism.
Chronic alcoholism can also lead to emotional and psychological issues. Depression, low self-esteem and anxiety are common among chronic alcoholics. Chronic alcoholics can develop problems with cognitive ability. Mild dementia has resulted from chronic alcoholism. Dementia occurs when the brain’s tissue shrinks, often resulting in loss of memory and intellectual ability. Additional types of brain damage have also been reported as consequences of chronic alcoholism.
Social problems also emerge among incidences of chronic alcoholism. Trouble with the law, child or spousal abuse, domestic violence and unemployment are associated with cases of alcohol abuse. Further, nearly half of all traffic accidents are related to alcohol use.
Chronic alcoholism must be treated with professional, ongoing care and total abstinence from alcohol. Residential treatment centres and support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, have proved successful in helping people overcome their chronic alcoholism.
Education and medical care are also parts of effective treatment programs, including proper diet to regain the nutritional balance and good health diminished by excessive drinking.