As with all addictive behaviour problems, it is very difficult for a person to acknowledge the existence of a drinking problem and this means that people suffer for many more years than is necessary. It is often confused with recurring depression and high anxiety levels which are not relieved by conventional treatments, and a failure to identify the role of alcohol in these conditions often means a failure to refer for the correct treatment.
How common is it?
Alcohol Dependency is by far the most common addiction and is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people every year. Government figures suggest that up to 9.7% of the UK population may be classified as dependent on alcohol.
How do I know if I have it?
People who are concerned should always seek professional assessment. The self assessment questionnaire on this site may give further insight. Some symptoms are more easily detected: 1) loss of control once drinking has started; 2) withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild tremors to frightening hallucinations; 3) Noticeable changes in the effects alcohol has on the individual over time.
How do people develop it?
The condition is characterised by the fact that the sufferer, despite many attempts at control, finds that their drinking and the attendant consequences continues to get worse over the period, and the dependent person’s guilt, shame and remorse levels become increasingly more burdensome. Attempts to stop can result in withdrawal symptoms which are relieved by taking more alcohol. Attempts at control (‘just a couple of drinks won’t hurt’) almost always end in drunkenness, and things seem to get progressively worse. In extremes, suicide may seem the best option as depression and severe anxiety coupled with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness often accompany addiction to alcohol.
Can it be inherited?
Although an actual gene has not been identified there is considerable evidence of genetic predisposition to the illness, through studies of twins and apocryphal evidence.
Can it be cured?
Alcoholism is very difficult to overcome, but it can be done. Whether you use the help of others, rely on support or go it alone, alcoholism can be cured.