Are You Drunk Again? Alcoholism Is a Disease

Article excerpt

Byline: Jose Pujalte, Jr., M.D.

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist, poet. Cassio, in Othello, act 2, sc. 3.

LET me give you your excuse for getting drunk. Choose the best answer.

I'm drunk because:

a. It's summer! Give me a break!

b. I had a spat with the wife.

c. I was downsized.

d. I have no excuse. Drinking is fun period.

The truth is there is no wrong answer. There are just too many reasons as there are alcoholic beverages. The summer vacation is probably a universal excuse to load up on ice cold beer. The occasional acute intoxication is expected with beach parties and outings lined up, but when drinking becomes too much of a habit, it turns from an inconvenience into a disease.

Definition of alcoholism. Also known as "alcohol dependence," alcoholism is a disease of craving alcohol and uncontrolled drinking despite negative consequences such as poor health, shattered relationships, or job loss. While alcoholism may run in families (genetic factors are considered), the environment plays a big role. How the individual reacts to stress, how his friends influence him, and even the ease of procuring alcohol are factors that may help develop alcoholism.

Signs and symptoms. According to the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are four symptoms:

(1) Craving or the compulsion to drink, (2) impaired control or the inability to limit one's drinking, (3) physical dependence which translates into withdrawal symptoms when there is the attempt to stop alcohol intake. Nausea, sweating, anxiety, and shaking are some withdrawal symptoms, and (4) tolerance or the need for increasing amounts of alcohol just to feel its effects.

Diagnosis. So do you (or someone you love) have an alcohol problem? This is an extremely emotional matter. Few people have the courage to accept alcohol dependence. In a quiet, sober moment there are four questions to ask, a key word in each one forms the acronym C.A.G.E.

* Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?

* Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? …