We leap for joy when we hear of someone’s remission from cancer. However, we keep a quiet and judgmental countenance when it comes to alcohol remission. Why is there such discrimination against those struggling with alcohol and not against those coping with heart disease? Do we fail to understand that alcoholism is indeed a disease? Is it because we believe that an alcoholic has a choice to be “sick” and a diabetic does not? It is vital that we look at addiction as a disease in order to understand it. In 1956, the American Medical Association officially classified alcoholism as a disease. In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified recovery from alcoholism as remission from a disease. Yet, public stigma about the disease still remains. Many people believe alcoholism is a choice rather than a medical or mental health condition. It is important that we educate ourselves and engage in healthy discussions about the disease of alcoholism. Additionally, we should start to talk more about addiction as a disease. The more we talk about it, the more we can de-stigmatize it. Read on to learn more about drug and alcohol addiction and how to fight this disease.
Understanding the Disease of Alcoholism
There is not one single person struggling with alcohol addiction who made a conscious decision one day to become an alcoholic. It is a gradual process that usually starts with simple social drinking. Occasional drinking out on the town turns into more frequent drinking at home. Then, the addiction finally culminates with a full-fledged dependency on alcohol in order to function. Therefore, this cycle makes it extremely hard to fight addiction before it happens unless you never drink at all. More than 14 million people across the United States struggle with alcohol addiction. This makes it the third most common mental health illness in the country. In order to understand the disease, we must first understand the symptoms and the difference between alcohol addiction and abusing alcohol. Alcohol addiction differs from alcohol abuse when it comes to withdrawal symptoms. With alcohol abuse, the person drinks far more than is appropriate, but does not suffer withdrawal upon ceasing, nor does the person require increasing amounts of alcohol in order to become intoxicated. This difference between alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse is vital to understand. Withdrawal and increased tolerance are what makes alcohol addiction a true disease. It is also important to understand who might be at a higher risk for addiction. People who have a family history of alcohol addiction, suffer from depression or have a very low opinion of themselves are at higher risk for developing alcohol dependency. If you suffer from any of these, it is important to keep in mind that you could be at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependency. Take extra precautions around alcohol if you know that you are more likely to develop a dependency.
Educating Society about Alcoholism
Many people struggling with alcohol addiction are reluctant to get help when they realize there is a problem simply because they are afraid of judgment from society. Fear of persecution allows the addiction to continue unless the desire for help is stronger. In many cases, it is not. Until society understands that alcoholism is a disease every bit as much as cancer, those who need help will continue to hesitate. That is why we need to continue to talk about the disease as a mental illness and remove our stigmatization from the subject. Do not let the fear of judgment keep you from getting treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. At The Ranch PA, our drug rehab centers and alcohol recovery programs understand that addiction is an illness that requires treatment, not condemnation. Find your path to recovery, and contact us at 717.969.9126 today.