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Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease in which a person is dependent on a drug—alcohol. The disease can harm the person’s physical and mental health. It can also affect his or her behavior. Alcoholism is not a character flaw. It is not a moral failure. It is a disease that gets worse over time. Untreated, it can lead to brain damage and death. Recovery is possible if drinking is stopped.

Effects of alcoholism

Behavioral effects

Drinking is the main behavior of people with alcoholism. They develop a private relationship with drinking. They guard it. They give it their time, money, and attention. This may happen at the expense of family and friends. They lie for it and think about it all the time. They may risk losing their families for it. They may risk their lives for it. Despite the harm it causes, they can’t control the drinking.

Health risks

People with alcoholism are at high risk for health problems. These include heart disease and cancer. They also include mental illness. People with the disease may not heal from illness normally. Unless drinking is stopped, it can cause death. Death may result from organ failure, cancer, or common viruses. Death may also result from accidents or suicide.

Physical effects

Alcohol can be like a poison to the body. It kills cells. Heavy drinking over a long time can greatly harm the body’s organs. These can include the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas. Chronic drinking also harms the digestive tract. It can make the blood "thin" and unable to clot. This causes bruising and even fatal bleed ing. It harms the immune system as well. This leaves the body at risk for serious disease.

Psychological effects

Alcoholism can lead to a type of distorted thinking known as “alcohol-think.” One of the most common forms of this is denial. This is when the person denies that drinking is a problem. He or she may deny that any of the problems in his or her life are caused by drinking.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
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