What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism, alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence is the most severe form of problem drinking. In addition to suffering from the signs of alcohol abuse, an alcoholic is also physically dependent on alcohol. This means that they can no longer control their drinking and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease. This means that once someone has developed an addiction, they will remain addicted for the rest of their lives. For example, someone who develops alcohol dependency during a burnout will remain an alcoholic, even after the burnout has been successfully treated. While alcohol addiction cannot be cured, it can be managed. Recovery requires support from family, friends and professionals alike. Find out about Triora’s effective treatment programme.
What are the causes of alcohol dependence?
People often think that there must be a cause for their addiction and that once the underlying problem is solved, the addiction will also be cured. Unfortunately this is not the case, though facing any underlying problems will help to stay alcohol-free over the longer term. It is not necessary to understand the cause of alcohol dependence before treating the condition – a fire has to be put out even though the cause is unknown. Similarly, potential causes should not be used as an excuse for continuing to abuse alcohol.
Is alcoholism genetic?
It has long been acknowledged that genetic factors play an important role in alcohol addiction. If you have a parent, brother or sister who has suffered from alcoholism, you are three to four times more likely to become an alcoholic yourself. This does not mean that you will develop an alcohol addiction. Nor does it mean that you cannot recover if you do.
What are the other risk factors?
Any combination of a variety of genetic, psychological and environmental factors can all play a role in whether someone goes on to develop an addiction to alcohol.
- Personality traits such as low self-esteem
- Stress and anxiety
- Mental health problems such as depression
- Adverse upbringing
- Easy availability of alcohol
- Cultural acceptance
- Employment - certain groups are at higher risk, unemployment is also a risk
- Role modelling - family, friends, community, idols
“When I was a student, I started a band with a friend of mine. We entered a contest, the NOS Meervaart Jazz Contest. We won, and six months later I was playing 200 concerts a year. That meant going out on the road - driving around the country, then on to Europe. We played a lot in Germany. It was one big party. It was a kind of rock 'n' roll life, too. And drinking was part of it. That and all the rest! That is all fine, until it becomes a habit… Before you know it, ten years have passed, and it's become a fixed part of your life. Before you know it, another ten years have passed, and you've got a problem… All my heroes were drug users, basically. I can't name one who wasn't. I never realized that I was playing with fire. I didn't start using because they were using, of course. But it was a great argument to silence your alter ego with.” Ben, musician and teacher.
Am I an alcoholic?
If your life revolves around your use of alcohol, which has become self-destructive or dangerous to others, and is causing serious problems at home, work or financially, then you should seek help.
Take our alcohol self-test to find out more about the signs of alcoholism and whether you need to cut down, or stop altogether.