Often, those suffering from it, and the professionals who treat it, have debated one idea. Is Alcoholism a disease? There are those who insist with fervent adamancy that their theory is the truth. Alcohol abuse causes medical dysfunction in humans.
This was one factor that led the American Medical Association (AMA) to label alcoholism as a disease in 1956. A series of highly respect physicians were perplexed by the baffling inability for confirmed alcoholics to get sober without some form of outside help.
Even with the support of one of the most respected medical associations in the world, there have still been naysayers. Let’s discuss a basic definition of the disease concept, and then see what types of characteristics might support the theory that alcoholism is just that, a disease.
What is the Basic Definition of a Disease?
By the most basic definition, a disease is a condition that adversely affects an organism. Most medically recognized diseases have particular symptoms and signs that indicate an illness is present.
A disease can be diagnosed as external, or it may produce internal dysfunction. In human beings, a disease is considered a medical malfunction that causes us pain, physical dysfunction, social problems or ultimately death.
Diseases are grouped by disorder, types of infections, a variety of syndromes, or even behaviors that deviate from the norm. Pathology is the study of diseases, and etiology is the study of what causes these diseases.
Alcoholism has generated a myriad of attention across both these spectrums. So, let’s take a look at some disease characteristics of alcoholism, which result in its medical classification as a disease.
What Are the Disease Characteristics of Alcoholism?
There are various symptoms and medical problems inherent to certain ailments that earn them a designation as a disease. Let’s look at a few of the disease characteristics that support the determination handed down by the AMA in 1956.
Chronic Sickness – Alcoholism is a chronic problem. Research has shown that without help a person with alcoholism will struggle unsuccessfully to remain sober. The fact that many would drink regardless of potentially serious medical and social problems confounded doctors.
The chronic nature of alcoholism is further supported by the intense increase in tolerance. As an alcoholic continues to drink, his tolerance levels will increase. This need for more alcohol to satisfy mental and physical cravings is directly related to the effects alcoholism has on vital organs such as the liver.
Heredity and Environment – As with other diseases, research has indicated a high probability that alcoholism can be handed down from one generation to the next. The genetic trait further supports the AMA’s assertion that alcoholism is a disease.
In addition, particular environments and social customs can spawn alcoholism. This presents alcoholism as a dual-headed monster. You can be born with alcoholism, but never activate the disease. You can be equally likely to not have a family history, but become a full-blown alcoholic as a result of your environment.
Physiological Indicators – Another aspect of the disease concept is the physiological damage that alcohol abuse can cause. Without treatment, there is a danger level that grows worse the more alcohol is consumed.
These become more blatant when alcohol is removed. A person with alcoholism can experience extremely strong mental and physical cravings. Nausea is a frequent byproduct of overconsumption.
Finally, there is the dangerous phase of alcohol withdrawal referred to as delirium tremens. If not medically treated, any of these physiological symptoms of alcohol abuse can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Final Analysis – Is Alcoholism a Disease or Not?
Everyone will have their own opinions about this question. However, when we honestly look at the characteristics of alcoholism, medical determinations notwithstanding, everything points to the accuracy of the disease theory.
- Thousands of case studies point directly at alcoholism’s chronic tendencies.
- Alcoholism has the progressive necessary for classification as a disease. Invariably, if left untreated, an alcoholic will get worse over time.
- There are direct tests for the symptomatic nature of alcoholism. It can be diagnosed through the alcoholic’s personal behavior, lifestyle, and especially in the acute physiological problems that occur.
- The ultimate test is that the ultimate demise of untreated alcoholism can result in death.
We may be able to argue with minor points contained in the determination by the American Medical Association, which declared alcoholism a disease nearly 70 years ago. However, the basic evidence we presented is hard to refute.
If you feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, take solace in these facts. It reveals that alcoholics are not bad people. We are sick people with a disease, who need help to get well. If you feel you may suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction, reach out for help today.
One key point is that as a disease, alcoholism can be treated. Remember, the most profound characteristic of alcoholism that categorizes it as a disease is that it can result in death. Ask for help today at 833-820-2922. Tomorrow may be too late.