Effects Of Alcoholism On The Family

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Effects of Alcoholism on the Family

Effects of Alcoholism on the Family


Alcoholism is a type of substance addiction characterized by a preoccupation with alcohol and impaired control over alcohol consumption. Alcoholism is similar to illicit drug addiction in its association with physical and psychological dependence. However, as alcohol consumption is legal and socially accepted (Richard and Mary, 2004), problematic use often goes unrecognized and lacks the same social stigma as illicit drug use. Alcoholism falls into two separate but overlapping categories: dependence and abuse.

Alcohol abuse is more prevalent among youth and young adults and is characterized by binge drinking, often resulting in legal problems such as drunk-driving arrests or interpersonal problems such as failure to fulfill employment responsibilities. In this entry the chronic and degenerative form of alcoholism—dependence—is the primary focus (Richard and Mary, 2004). Characterizing alcohol dependence is long-term abuse and the degradation of health caused by sustained long-term use. Onset of dependence can be slow, often taking years. The major criteria for diagnosis are increasing tolerance to the effects of use, loss of control over consumption, unsuccessful attempts to control use, continued drinking despite negative consequences stemming from use, the experience of withdrawal symptoms (the shakes, nausea) when consumption ceases, and drinking alcohol to relieve such symptoms.

How Does Alcoholism Develop?

It is acknowledged that enumerating the causes of alcoholism may put this discussion at the risk for degrading or blaming the victim. It is thereby the hope that this list of causes conveys the respect for the struggle and predicament of people with alcoholism (Marjana and Barbara, 2004). Developmentally, drinking alcohol is often first experienced in adolescence. Certain familial, genetic, behavioral, and cultural norms (availability, encouragement of family, prices, accessibility, media and advertisement) and the individual's predisposition all interact to determine whether the adolescent continues to drink in early adulthood and whether the individual pursues abusive drinking into adulthood.

The genetic cause of alcoholism has been confirmed by research; people with parents who are abusers or dependents usually have higher tolerance for alcohol and a higher predisposing risk for addiction (Marjana and Barbara, 2004). Behaviorally, alcoholism may have been established as a person's way of coping with problems, hardship, or emotional emptiness and depression. Drinking alcohol can also be due to a strong pressure from one's peers and one's community. Relying on alcohol for relaxation and relief from life's challenges can also be learned and may then be passed on to the next generation (Karen, 2005).

Moreover, the psychophysiological effects of drinking may be reinforcing; that is, because the personality and bodily changes to the drinker are perceived as favorable, these effects may be rewarding, and the drinking is reinforced as well, which eventually may lead to abuse and then dependence. Relationally and usually more common in collectivistic cultures (Karen, 2005), behavioral and emotional patterns are learned in response to the alcoholic. In families with an alcoholic, these patterns may eventually allow the alcoholic to continue with the ...
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