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All you need to know about alcoholism

Many people mistakenly believe that alcoholics are only people who need to have a drink in the early morning or are down and outs sitting on park benches drinking cans of lager. While those examples are likely to be true, there are many ‘types’ of alcoholic who manage to function within a ‘normal’ life.

This article about alcoholism and symptoms of alcoholism is provided by The Causeway Retreat, an addiction treatment and mental health clinic on Osea Island, near London.


Alcoholism is the continued abuse of alcohol regardless of the detrimental consequences to the health of mind or body.

A more popular definition might allude to Jekyll and Hyde, where somebody’s personality profoundly changes for the worse as a result of drinking alcohol.

Alcohol is believed to cause around 33,000 deaths per year in Britain. The most common ways to die through alcoholism are:

  • Impaired judgement and decision-making process, often resulting in fatal accidents at work and while driving
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Choking to death on one’s own vomit
  • Cancer
  • Atrophy of the brain

Statistics

  • One in four admissions to hospital in the UK is alcohol related
  • Sixty per cent of British suicides are alcohol related
  • Alcohol is implicated in forty per cent of domestic violence cases and thirty-nine per cent of fires
  • It is an illness that affects the body and mind, is compulsive in nature and considered to be an addiction. It was first reported by Senecca in ancient Rome as something very close to insanity. The Italian for alcoholic is alcoolisto; the French is alcoholique and the German is alkoholiker.

Many people mistakenly believe that alcoholics are only people who need to have a drink in the early morning or are down and outs sitting on park benches drinking cans of lager. While those examples are likely to be true, there are many ‘types’ of alcoholic who manage to function within a ‘normal’ life. The lonely builder who only drinks eight pints of beer at the pub five times a week, or the respectable lady magistrate who drinks three glasses of sherry in an evening can both be alcoholic.

Like most addictions, alcoholism comes with practice. The more often you drink, the more likely you are to become dependent. Nobody knows why some people become alcoholic while others do not. Many recovering alcoholics maintain they were born that way wired together differently and that, if it wasn’t alcohol, another addictive substance would be their undoing.

Strange fact: The ancient Greeks believed that putting a piece of amethyst in one’s glass or in one’s mouth while drinking prevented drunkenness. The literal Greek translation of ‘amethyst’ is ‘not intoxicated’.​

Obvious fact: Alcohol accentuates your real mood. If you are feeling depressed, alcohol will briefly raise your serotonin level but only briefly, before you feel even worse. If you are feeling euphoric or hypomanic, drinking alcohol will make you higher.

How to tell

  • Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your alcohol consumption?
  • Do you repeatedly drink more than you intend or want to?
  • Can you ‘take’ or ‘hold’ your drink? This does not signify that you are not an alcoholic and some cases can indicate a problem. 
  • Have you ever felt guilty about the way you acted or behaved having drunk alcohol?
  • Have you been in trouble with your family or spouse, girlfriend / boyfriend, or at work or with the police?

If you have answered yes to more than two of the above questions, it may be wise to talk the matter over with your GP or a close friend. If you have a chronic alcohol problem, it is not advisable to try to stop but to seek professional help on alcohol addiction treatment as soon as possible.

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All you need to know about alcoholism
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