What is alcoholism?


Many people are able to drink within the permitted limits and, therefore, their risk of developing alcohol-related diseases is low. However, for some, the amount of alcohol they consume can lead to permanent damage. By alcoholism (alcohol abuse), we mean a continued intake of much higher than the recommended limits.

Many people who have alcohol-related diseases are not alcoholics.

Alcohol is measured in units. One unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10 ml of pure alcohol, which is approximately 0.25 l, that is, a small glass of wine or a single dose of spirits. The recommended daily limits of alcohol consumption are:

  • no more than 3 or 4 doses per day for men
  • no more than 2 or 3 units per day for women

For both men and women, it is also recommended to have alcohol-free days throughout the week. You put your health at risk if you regularly exceed the recommended daily limit.

What are the causes of addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a gradual process that can take a few years or even decades to become a real problem, with some very vulnerable people, addiction can develop within months.

Eventually, over time, regular alcohol consumption can deregulate the balance of a brain neurotransmitter called GABA (γ-amino butyric acid), which controls impulsiveness, like glutamate, which stimulates the nervous system.

When alcohol is consumed, dopamine levels in the brain rise, making the drinking experience more rewarding. In the medium and long term, excessive alcohol consumption can significantly alter the levels of these molecules, causing the person to feel the physical need to drink to avoid feeling sick.

Related to excessive alcohol consumption there are the following risk factors

  1. Genes: Scientists say there may be specific genetic factors that predispose some to become addicted to alcohol and other substances.
  2. People with a family history of addiction have a higher risk of alcohol abuse. Researchers from the University of Granada, Spain, revealed that “the lack of endorphin is hereditary, and therefore there is a genetic predisposition to become addicted to alcohol”.

Related to excessive alcohol consumption there are the following risk factorsThe age at which you drink for the first time: A study found that people who started drinking before the age of 15 had a much higher probability of having an alcohol problem later in their life.

Easy access to alcohol: experts say there is a correlation between the ease with which one has access to alcohol (low prices) and alcohol abuse or related deaths.

An American study revealed that there is a strong correlation between the increase in alcohol-related taxes in 1983 and 2002, and a significant decline in alcohol-related deaths in one US state. It has been seen that the effect was two or four times that of prevention strategies such as school programs or media campaigns.

Stress: some stress hormones are linked to alcoholism. If stress and anxiety levels are high, some people may consume alcohol in an attempt to cover up their agitation.Drinking for social reasons: people who have friends who drink regularly or abuse alcohol are more likely to drink excessively and ultimately have a problem with alcohol.

Low self-esteem: experts say that people with low self-esteem who have access to alcohol have a greater chance of abusing it.

Depression: depressed people may consciously or unconsciously use alcohol as a cure. On the other hand, however, alcohol abuse can lead to depression rather than the other way around.

  • Media and advertising: in some countries alcohol is presented as trendy, as universal and as a popular activity. Many experts think ads can get the message across that heavy drinking is socially accepted.
  • How the body metabolizes alcohol: people who need more alcohol to have the same effect are at a higher risk of developing a problem with alcohol.


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