Alcoholism is a prison and it will put you behind bars.
Alcohol consumption is common in most parts of the world and most people consume alcohol sparingly or in moderation. In some people, however, alcohol consumption can become a chronic disease, or long-term illness, that has serious medical consequences. It is uncertain what causes this to happen in some people but not in others.
An estimated 17.6 million Americans have a problem with the overuse of alcohol. About half of them are alcoholics or alcohol dependant in medical terms. Many people feel that not being able to stop drinking is a personal weakness. It isn’t; alcoholism is a chronic disease. Individuals with alcoholism suffer from an addiction typically becoming preoccupied with drinking and not able to control how much or how often they indulge. Though they might be aware of the risks involved in consuming too much alcohol, they are often unable to resist, despite the known dangers.
Alcoholism becomes worse over time if drinking continues, and can lead to death or other serious medical problems. Like diabetes or depression, alcohol dependence can be treated.
An individual with alcoholism might not immediately recognize that he or she is affected by a disease that can be successfully treated with psychosocial support and medication. If you believe you or someone you know might have a problem with alcohol dependence, you should learn all you can about the diease and its symptoms.
RECOGNIZING THE SYMPTOMS
In order to face alcoholism and start on the road to recovery, you should have a basic understanding of the disease and its characteristics.
Alcoholism is usually defined by the following traits:
- A strong urge to consume alcohol, known also as craving.
- The inability to stop drinking, once started.
- A physical dependance involving withdrawal symptoms including nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
- An elevated tolerance to alcohol.
To understand how alcoholism might be affecting your life, take a look at the statements below. If three or more of them, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period, apply to you or you observe these traits in a family member or friend, you should consider talking to you doctor or healthcare provider.
- It takes more alcohol to get "high" than it did before.
- I have a few drinks to decrease my shakiness, nausea, or sweating.
- I can’t stop drinking once I start.
- I spend a lot of time thinking about drinking.
- I have tried and failed to cut down or stop.
- I have alcohol-related medical or behavioral problems.
- I have cut down on social or professional activities in order to drink.
MEASURING THE IMPACT
Alcoholism impacts nearly every aspect of life as it relates to personal relationships, work responsibilities, and even your own psychological state. The disease has a profound effect not only on your own well-being but on that of everyone around you as well.
Among the people most adversely affected by alcoholism are family members. When life is clouded by demands of alcoholism, familial responsibilities are usually neglected or ignored. This is especially problematic when the person suffering from alcoholism is a parent. In theses cases, the preoccupation with obtaining and drinking alcohol can endanger the well-being of the children. In some cases, excessive spending on alcohol and job loss also endanger the well-being of the children because they can no longer be provided for adequately.
As an individual falls deeper and deeper into alcoholism and becomes less able to fulfill his responsibilities, his contributions to work and the community suffer and he depends more on society for support. In the worst case, this will progress to a level where a person with alcoholism will lose financial independence completely.
TREATING THE DISEASE
Alcoholism is a medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated, like any other medical condition. Treatment programs for alcoholism can involve multi person treatment teams which include, among others, social workers, counselors, doctors, and nurses. These individuals work as a team with members of your family to give you the best all-around care possible and get you started on the road to recovery. It is up to you and your health care professional treatment team to determine how best to manage the road to recovery.
The first step in the treatment process is usually the establishment of a treatment plan based on information gathered by a counselor or other healthcare provider. The information requested might be factual in nature, like the type, amount, and duration of alcohol consumption, or possibly personal information like work or school performance and mental health issues. The person gathering the information will use all of the resources available to get an accurate picture of your history. This could include interviews with your family members and friends. It is important here to understand that the information your healthcare provider is seeking is not meant to be an invasion of your privacy, but a way to fully understand the roots of the problem so the best care possible can be provided.
ACHIEVING AND MAINTAINING SOBRIETY
Acceptance of a drinking problem is the first step to recovery.
Once you've accepted that you have a problem with alcohol, you can decide to take positive action to regain control of your life. You can make a choice for wellness and commit to being alcohol-free for yourself and for others who care about you.
Investigating treatment options—like reading this information—shows that you are preparing to move from thought to action. Though the idea of sobriety may seem overwhelming, it doesn't have to be. Remember, many others with alcohol problems have succeeded in achieving and maintaining sobriety. There are people who can help you. Some of them you know, like friends and family who are interested in your well-being. Others are members of the treatment community, both healthcare professionals and people who have also struggled themselves with alcohol problems. Becoming alcohol-free isn't easy and it isn't done in a day, but it has ample rewards for those who keep striving for the goal.
IF A RELAPSE HAPPENS
What happens if you respond to a trigger and have a drink?
First, you should recognize that alcoholism is a chronic disease. The good news is that you can manage it. Should you slip and have a drink, you still can make a choice for wellness. It is possible to prevent a slip from becoming a major relapse. Your counselors and support groups can help you to get back on track.
Second, don't get caught in the "all or none" belief trap. A slip—or relapse—in your abstinence does not mean there is no hope for recovery. Feelings of failure can lead quickly to a downward spiral. So, if you do take a drink, don't let it become your reason for taking the next drink, and the next. Turn your slip into a learning experience—what was the situation, what would have been a better coping strategy?
Third, stick with your treatment plan. It is a crucial time to involve your doctors, counselors, self-help group, and support network of friends and family. And, if you are taking a medication like Campral, stay with it. It may help you regain your abstinence.
If you do have a full-blown relapse and revert to your earlier behavior patterns, remember that recovery is a journey towards wellness. Do not let shame or despair prevent you from getting help. You've had some success, whether it was measured in weeks, or months, or years. Use that knowledge to build on your determination to begin again. If medication had not been part of your initial treatment plan, you might do well to consider it.
HOW CAMPRAL CAN HELP
Campral is the latest medication to be approved for the treatment of alcoholism. Campral is indicated for the maintenance of abstinence from alcohol in individuals with alcoholism and should be started once a person has been withdrawn from alcohol. Campral should always be used in combination with psychosocial support.
Campral has been proven to significantly help alcohol-dependent patients prolong the duration of abstinence or remaining completely alcohol-free. In trials that measured the effectiveness of Campral plus psychosocial support versus placebo (sugar pill) and the same types of support, patients taking Campral consistently did better in terms of days to first drink, the percentage of alcohol-free days, and in maintaining complete abstinence from alcohol. People who continued to take Campral in the event of a relapse were often able to regain their abstinence. Many were shown to have shorter and less severe relapses than people not on medication.
While no one knows exactly how Campral works, it is believed to help restore the normal brain balance that constant alcohol exposure upsets. This reduces the distress and discomfort, such as anxiety, tremors, and sweating, that many alcohol-dependent patients experience even after they have stopped drinking. If you would like to learn more about how Campral works with your body, reading about its mechanism of action may help.
Only a doctor can prescribe Campral therapy.
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