Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in mental or physical health problems. The disorder was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions are present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex, among other things. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body, but it particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, irregular heartbeat, liver cirrhosis and increased cancer risk, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Women are generally more sensitive than men to the harmful physical and mental effects of alcohol.
Alcohol dependence is a legitimate health problem. Health professionals can provide advice, support and in some cases medication to help reduce alcohol dependence. You may feel embarrassed talking to a doctor about drinking too much, but remember that doctors and other health workers are there to help fix health problems, not to judge or berate their patients. A good doctor will encourage their patients to drink in moderation or perhaps abstain for periods of time, not make their patients feel guilty or bad for drinking drink too much alcohol.
In order to effectively recover from an addiction, professional help in the field of substance abuse is only part of the equation. Often times, recovering individuals additionally need the support of others who are also recovering from addiction. This is where support groups can provide a critical element needed to bring success to an individual's recovery process.
Wilson took this to heart, coming up with additional points to safeguard the integrity and future of his group. To that effect, he wrote that every individual AA group should decline outside contributions and ought to be able to fully support itself. Alcoholics Anonymous was never to be a professional organization; “the only requirement for AA membership,” he wrote, “is a desire to stop drinking.” Above all, groups had to prize anonymity; Wilson wrote that it is “the spiritual foundation of all our traditions,” and that the sacrifice of identity would help members “place principles before personalities.”
Blood. Alcohol may cause changes to all the types of blood cells. Red blood cells become abnormally large. White blood cells (important for fighting infections) decrease in number, resulting in a weakened immune system. This places alcohol-dependent individuals at increased risk for infections and may account in part for the increased risk of cancer faced by people with alcoholism. Platelets and blood clotting factors are affected, causing an increased risk of bleeding.
Added fat and scar tissue on the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption can lead to all sorts of problems, but most often either cirrhosis or alcohol-induced hepatitis. Liver failure among those who drink heavily for many years is likely. Pancreatitis, or the consistent inflammation of the pancreas, can also cause damage to the body, including high blood sugar leading to diabetes.
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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first 12-step program established and many other support groups have branched off from AA using this model. AA is an organization that unites people who have struggled with alcohol dependency, providing strength and faith in one another to overcome addiction. Its mission is to “stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety” without judgment or segregation. AA founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith developed the 12 steps based on concepts from Carl Jung’s theories as influenced by Eastern philosophy, and from spiritual values such as those rooted in the principles of the Oxford Group.
A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the Twelve Steps were first published in the 1939 book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. The method was adapted and became the foundation of other twelve-step programs.