Alcohol is the most commonly consumed intoxicating drug. Hungary currently takes the 18th place in alcohol consumption in the world. The health and social risks of alcohol consumption are equally significant, and the affected people have difficulties facing the problem.
The average yearly quantity in litres of spirits is 11.4 litres per capita. Regular alcohol drinking usually starts at young age, between 16-20 years in Hungary. Men tend to become alcoholic more often than women (4:1), but according to the latest data, this ratio seems to slowly equalize.
Only a minority of the affected seek help in the psychiatric and addictology care system.
Definition of alcoholism
By definition alcoholism means that the person feels an internal physical or psychological compulsion for consuming alcohol, thus addiction develops. Alcoholism harms the affected person both physically and psychologically and has negative effects on society, too. An alcoholic becomes unable to fit into society, reinforcing the maladaptive coping mechanism in which alcohol remains the only consolation. This may even end in suicide. The risk of suicide in alcoholics is about 5.000 times higher (10-20%) than in the general population.
Of course, not all alcoholics’ condition is so grave, but still there is a high chance for all to face serious consequences on all fields of life. Being drunk or hungover at work may result in loosing the position causing financial problems and even loosing housing. Furthermore, drinking at non proper times and the behaviour influenced by alcohol may have legal consequences (like for drinking and driving or disturbing peace). The behaviour of alcoholics often results in marital conflicts, divorce and may have a role in domestic violence, too. The parental alcoholism may cause long-term harm in children’s emotional development, that may manifest even in their adult years.
Possible causes of alcoholism
In alcoholism several factors may take part. There are hereditary, learnt and socio-cultural factors as well. According to the neurobiological theory, there may be a connection between the brain reward system and the development of alcoholism.
Some personality features also increase the risk of alcoholism. These are loneliness, shyness, suspicion, anxious personality, tendency for depression, strong emotionality, hostile or even self-destructive temper or criminal behaviour.
Consequences of alcoholism
Drinking too much alcohol harms the human body in several ways:
- development of alcoholism;
- liver damage;
- bleeding of the stomach, gastritis, ulcers;
- diarrhoea, pancreatitis;
- cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrest;
- anaemia, blood coagulation disorders;
- memory problems;
- aggressive, irrational behaviour, quarrelling, violent actions;
- depression, irritability, sleeping disorders;
- hand tremors, numbness of hand and fingers, loss of sensation, neuropathic pain;
- falls because of sensory disturbances (alcoholic neuropathy).
- premature aging of skin, alcoholic nose (shape) and face;
- oral cavity and larynx cancer;
- breast cancer;
- frequent colds, decreased immunity, higher risk of pneumonia;
- vitamin deficiency;
- potency disorder in men;
- in women greater risk of developmental disorders in fetuses;
Most alcoholics ask for help only when a situation forces them to do so (e.g. drunkness with complications; accident, injury, illness connected to alcoholism; social, work or family problems). It has grave importance for the sick to understand they need treatment, and most of the times it is not easy for them to admit that.
Developing alcoholism presents differently. The symptoms and complications may vary, hence the treatment approach should be complex, personalized as well. The physical symptoms should be treated as symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The complex treatment plan should include psycho-sociotherapy and rehabilitation.
After quitting alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may occur. The enhanced sweating, limb tremors, irritability, elevated blood pressure, fast heart rate, nausea, sometimes epileptic seizures need pharmaceutical treatment. In serious cases delirium tremens may develop. As medical treatment benzodiazepines (tranquilizers), antiepileptics (to prevent seizures) and high dosages of Vitamin Bs are used. In the meantime, appropriate food and fluid intake is crucial.
After this treatment, rehabilitation is the next step, and the main goals are to achieve abstinence (life without alcohol), and to avoid relapses. About two third of alcoholics have other mental disorders too (e.g. mood or anxiety disorders). These disorders may be treated with medicines, too. In the course of rehabilitation several psychotherapeutic methods are used, like supportive, group and individual psychotherapy, behavioural therapy.
Recently, medications to decrease the desire to consume alcohol are also used to prevent relapses. Antabuse, a medicine that causes aversion to alcohol (causing unpleasant physical symptoms upon drinking) is now used more rarely.
Self-help groups are also efficient in rehabilitation, since healed and not yet healed people can both talk about their problems and difficulties and help each other in these groups.
The four golden rules
The rules of alcohol consumption:
- Not every day!
- No spirits!
- Always with meals!
- Always with company!
Where to seek help?
It is no shame in asking for help. Alcoholism is a serious illness, and the expert help when comes in time may be literally lifesaving.
phone: 06-1 251-00-51
mobile: 06-30 749-2221