Alcohol abuse is a very dangerous condition that can cause many problems in a person’s life and affect many aspects of their lifestyle. Alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, somehow affects everyone’s life at some point in time, whether through a parent, a sibling, a friend, or personal encounters. Alcohol abuse, as a medical diagnosis, refers to a pattern of behavior characterized by excessive alcohol consumption. This consumption can occur at regular intervals, regular weekend intervals, or during binges, which are considered as being intoxicated for at least two successive days. Difficulty in stopping, reducing the amount of alcohol use, and impaired social and occupational role functioning are all characteristics of alcohol abuse.
A number of theories in the medical field are used to explain alcohol abuse. These include the biologic-genetic model, the learning/social model, the psychodynamic model, and the multidimensional model (McFarland 457). Each model offers different explanations for why and how people use and abuse alcohol. The biologic-genetic model suggests that there is a specific genetic vulnerability for alcoholism.
There have been extensive studies on factors in the genes that could determine or influence the use of alcohol from generation to generation. However, these studies have shown no hard evidence for an association between alcoholism and inherited factors. The learning and social model proposes that alcoholism is a process that is slowly developed within a social situation or atmosphere. This model of alcoholism has also been researched by using both human and animal subjects. A conditioning model of alcohol tolerance has demonstrated that specific cues from the environment, such as odor, sight, and taste, produce a stimulus that results in alcohol consumption. If ethanol, the addictive ingredient in alcohol, is not supplied, a psychological compensatory response called a craving is produced.
The psychodynamic model of alcoholism proposes that problematic childrearing practices produce psychosexual maldevelopment and dependence/independence conflicts. It is believed that during habitual alcohol use, the drinker may exhibit behaviors such as exaggeration, denial, rationalization, and affiliation with socially deviant groups. These behaviors can result in decreased work efficiency, job loss, alienation from friends and family, and even hospitalization. The multidimensional model of alcoholism combines biological, behavioral, and sociocultural factors, creating the strongest model that most alcoholics fit into.
The biological model relates to the progression from occasional initial relief drinking, to the increase of tolerance, and from loss of memory during heavy drinking periods to an urgency of drinking. The behavioral model is helpful in the identification of high-risk situations, in which alcoholics are most likely to be drinking. Sociocultural factors are present in peer interaction around drinking as a primary activity for entertainment. This can lead to the preference of drinking for social interaction.
Ideas such as this are greatly influenced and shaped by media, including commercials and television portrayals of alcohol use as a coping skill. Additionally, the belief that using alcohol to reduce life’s stress is socially acceptable contributes to this influence. Another area in which alcohol is viewed as acceptable is during the aging process. The death of a spouse, job relocation, retirement, or loss of health can put older people at risk of alcoholism, which is identified as late-onset alcoholism (McFarland 458). Alcoholism can be divided into several subtypes.
Gamma alcoholism applies to binge drinkers who alternate periods of sobriety and drunkenness. An example of gamma alcoholism would be a college student who engages in heavy binge drinking. In contrast, beta alcoholism is manifested by physical complications of chronic alcohol use such as cirrhosis, weakening of the liver, heart, stomach, and esophagus. An example of a beta alcoholic would be a housewife who is a maintenance drinker and experiences withdrawal symptoms.
A number of issues also arise among the characteristics of alcoholism. Behavioral problems are often visible signs such as poor school grades, rambling speech, disciplinary problems, excessive fighting, truancy, vandalism, and hyperactivity. Alcoholism is a serious and complicated disease. Curing alcoholism is a difficult process that requires accepting the presence of the condition, self-realization, and support. As a person begins to achieve control over their drinking problem by implementing new coping strategies and increasing their sense of competence and hope, they enter a new phase of life.