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Alcoholism is defined to as, “a primary disorder and chronic disease, progressive and often fatal where an individual is dependent on alcohol. This is when a person forms a physical, mental, and spiritual dependence on alcohol.” (1) These people can not/do not know when to stop drinking, and cannot stop drinking no matter how bad things may get for them. Alcoholism has recently been defined as a disease, because it is a chronic and progressive. Like many other diseases, it has symptoms that include a strong need to drink despite the negative consequences; it also has a generally predictable course and is often influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
Misuse of alcohol represents one of the leading causes of preventable death, illness and injury in many societies throughout the world. Alcohol consumption has an effect of adverse health and social consequences. The adverse effects of alcohol may include liver cirrhosis, mental illnesses, and several types of cancer, pancreases, and damage to the fetus among pregnant women. Social effect include consequences such as drinking and driving injuries and fatalities aggressive behavior, family disruptions and reduced industrial productivity. (2)
Alcohol dependence refers to “a disease that is characterized by abnormal alcohol-seeking behavior that leads to impaired control over drinking.” (2) Diagnosis of alcohol dependence focuses on an interrelated cluster of psychotically symptoms, such as cravings; physiological signs, such as tolerance and withdrawal; and behavioral indicator, such as the neglect of social, occupational, or recreational activities in favor of drinking.
Alcohol use causes significant harm to the physical, psychological and social health of many peoples families and communities in both developed and developing countries. This effect can be caused to both drinkers and non-drinkers, and can damage nearly every tissue in the body. Harmful results that can happen to drinkers include alcoholic psychosis, alcohol dependence syndrome, alcoholic polyneuropathy, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, alcoholic gastritis, alcoholic liver cirrhosis, ethanol toxicity and methanol toxicity. Alcohol use could also cause cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast. Heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, as well as pancreatic inflammation, atrophy and fibrosis may also be caused by alcohol use. As you can see alcohol can take a major toll on the body. (6)
Cirrhosis is a chronic disease of the liver characterized by an increase in the connective tissue and alteration in the gross microscopic make-up. The risk of liver cirrhosis is increasing with the increasing levels of alcohol consumption. Liver cirrhosis is a significant cause of death in many countries. In Finland between the years of 1987 and 1993, alcoholic liver disease accounted for 13.9% of alcohol-caused deaths. In Canada this contributed to 14.3% of alcohol-related deaths. In the year 1999, alcoholic cirrhosis was the largest cause of alcohol-related death among Australian men and the second most common cause of death among women. It is estimated that 90% of liver cirrhosis is a direct result from drinking alcohol in Finland. With the statistics so high you would find it hard to believe that it takes a long period of time for an individual to develop liver cirrhosis, and most high consumers do not develop this disease, for unknown reasons. (4)
Cancer is the leading and growing cause of death among Canadian’s. Reviewed studies of cancers for 22 different sites concluded that alcohol is a significant risk factor for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver. The recent English review tends to be considerably more conservative with regard to the proportion of cancer which can be attributed to alcohol consumption when compared to American estimates. When talking about or pharyngeal cancer, the English review in Australia concluded that 21% of male deaths and 8% of female deaths due to or pharyngeal cancer in that country are caused by alcohol. (4)
“In 1983 the World Health Assembly declared alcohol related problems to be one of the worst major health problems.” (2) This has not stopped anyone from drinking around the world, in fact today things have gotten much worse with alcoholism and alcohol related problems, especially in developing countries. It has been reported that 3.5% of disability-adjusted life years are lost due to alcoholism. This puts alcohol on the same level with measles, tuberculosis, and malaria and indicates that it is more than five times as significant as illegal drugs in terms of its impact on global health. (4)
Throughout the world different things have been done to try and prevent alcoholism and structure the amount of alcohol consumption.