In most parts of the world, alcohol is legal for adults to both purchase and consume. As a result, beverages that contain alcohol are available almost everywhere, and clearly, many adults partake. Since use is so common, it might seem hard to determine who is drinking alcohol in an appropriate manner and who is drinking in a manner that could lead to alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Experts suggest there are key signs to look for.
The alcoholic's continual craving for alcohol makes abstinence -- an important goal of treatment -- extremely difficult. The condition is also complicated by denial: Alcoholics might be reluctant to admit their excess drinking either because of denial or guilt. Another barrier to receiving care is that physicians screen only about 15% of their primary care patients for alcohol disorders.
AA describes alcoholism as an illness that involves a physical allergy:28 (where "allergy" has a different meaning than that used in modern medicine.) and a mental obsession.:23 The doctor and addiction specialist Dr. William D. Silkworth M.D. writes on behalf of AA that "Alcoholics suffer from a "(physical) craving beyond mental control".:XXVI A 1960 study by E. Morton Jellinek is considered the foundation of the modern disease theory of alcoholism. Jellinek's definition restricted the use of the word alcoholism to those showing a particular natural history. The modern medical definition of alcoholism has been revised numerous times since then. The American Medical Association uses the word alcoholism to refer to a particular chronic primary disease.
Heavy drinking has a lot of other risks. It can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, some forms of cancer, brain damage, serious memory loss, and high blood pressure. It also makes someone more likely to die in a car wreck or from murder or suicide. And any alcohol abuse raises the odds of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
But Twelve-Step Facilitation therapy is still a tried-and-true proven approach. It is far more than advising a patient to “go to AA” and providing them a list of meeting locations and times. In Twelve-Step Faciliation, the therapist actively probes and nudges, encouraging not only attendance, but participation, in meetings; it explains the potential benefits of working with a sponsor and promotes the individual developing a relationship with a sponsor; it explores problems or psychological resistances to attendance, participation, actual “working the steps,” and the development of a sponsor-sponsee relationship; and it opens the door to “AA-related activities” such as volunteer service to one’s AA “home group” or AA “clubhouse” and involvement with AA-related social events, retreats, and local and state conventions.
Using “I” statements reduces accusation and lets you be an active participant in the discussion. It may be helpful to bring up a specific concern. You may mention when alcohol caused an unwanted effect, such as violent behavior or economic problems. Rather than saying, “You’re an alcoholic — you need to get help now,” you can say, “I love you and you’re very important to me. I’m concerned about how much you’re drinking, and it may be harming your health.”
In 1939, High Watch Farm in Kent, Connecticut was founded by Bill Wilson and Marty Mann. Sister Francis who owned the farm tried to gift the spiritual retreat for alcoholics to Alcoholics Anonymous, however citing the sixth tradition Bill W. turned down the gift but agreed to have a separate non-profit board run the facility composed of AA members. Bill Wilson and Marty Mann served on the High Watch board of directors for many years. High Watch was the first and therefore the oldest 12 step based treatment center in the world still operating today.
Alcohol abuse, now included in the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, is a disease. While many have described this disorder as dipsomania, the latter term more accurately describes the intense craving that can be a symptom of alcohol use disorder. A maladaptive pattern of drinking alcohol that results in negative work, medical, legal, educational, and/or social effects on a person's life characterizes the disorder. The individual who abuses this substance tends to continue to use it despite such consequences. Effects of alcohol use disorder on families can include increased domestic abuse/domestic violence. The effects that parental alcoholism can have on children can be significantly detrimental in other ways as well. For example, the sons and daughters of alcoholics seem to be at higher risk for experiencing feelings that are more negative, stress, and alienation as well as aggression. There are a multitude of negative psychological effects of alcohol use disorder, including depression and antisocial behaviors.
AA meetings do not exclude other alcoholics, though some meetings cater to specific demographics such as gender, profession, age, sexual orientation, or culture. Meetings in the United States are held in a variety of languages including Armenian, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. While AA has pamphlets that suggest meeting formats, groups have the autonomy to hold and conduct meetings as they wish "except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole". Different cultures affect ritual aspects of meetings, but around the world "many particularities of the AA meeting format can be observed at almost any AA gathering".
Functional subtype: Representing about 19 percent of those struggling with AUD in the study, this group is typically middle aged and, on the surface, appears to have their lives together. They have higher income, more education, and stable relationships compared to other adults struggling with AUD. They drink, on average, every other day, and tend to binge drink on those days.
“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
During Step 9, individuals will attempt to make amends for wrongdoings done to specific individuals. People are encouraged to reach out to these individuals and let them know that they would like to approach them to make amends. It can be very humbling to do so. In some cases, it is not possible to have these conversations directly, or doing so would be more harmful, so indirect methods may be ideal. Individuals can write a letter to the person (even if it will never actually be delivered), or they may choose to donate to a charity in their honor or help someone else in need.
Given the malnutrition that many alcoholics suffer from, gradual correction of that condition is also important, both to prevent or correct the consequences of malnutrition (like low thiamine level) and to prevent the potential results of correcting nutrition problems too rapidly. One example of the latter is that people with chronic alcohol-induced low sodium levels in the bloodstream (hyponatremia) are at risk for severe neurological problems due to a loss of the outer, insulating covering of nerve cells in parts of the brain (central pontine myelinolysis) if low sodium levels are corrected too rapidly.
To share their method, Wilson and other members wrote the initially-titled book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, from which AA drew its name. Informally known as "The Big Book" (with its first 164 pages virtually unchanged since the 1939 edition), it suggests a twelve-step program in which members admit that they are powerless over alcohol and need help from a "higher power". They seek guidance and strength through prayer and meditation from God or a Higher Power of their own understanding; take a moral inventory with care to include resentments; list and become ready to remove character defects; list and make amends to those harmed; continue to take a moral inventory, pray, meditate, and try to help other alcoholics recover. The second half of the book, "Personal Stories" (subject to additions, removal and retitling in subsequent editions), is made of AA members' redemptive autobiographical sketches. 
In keeping with AA's Eighth Tradition, the Central Office employs special workers who are compensated financially for their services, but their services do not include traditional "12th Step" work of working with alcoholics in need. All 12th Step calls that come to the Central Office are handed to sober AA members who have volunteered to handle these calls. It also maintains service centers, which coordinate activities such as printing literature, responding to public inquiries, and organizing conferences. Other International General Service Offices (Australia, Costa Rica, Russia, etc.) are independent of AA World Services in New York.
There are no dues or fees for members of AA. Prohibitive cost can be a major hurdle when it comes to sticking with a treatment program. Even if it’s working, someone might drop out if it becomes too expensive for them to stay with it. While a group might do a collection to cover expenses like rent or refreshments, there is no mandatory cost required to join AA.
Over time, the regular consumption of alcohol will alter brain chemicals, making the drinker crave alcohol not for a good time, but to avoid feeling poorly. Brain function becomes more and more impaired as your blood alcohol content increases. Each time you drink alcohol, several chemicals in the brain become imbalanced. Over time, the brain becomes used to this imbalance, and considers it the new balance, so to speak. This is a disease of the brain called alcoholism.
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Attitudes and social stereotypes can create barriers to the detection and treatment of alcohol abuse. This is more of a barrier for women than men. Fear of stigmatization may lead women to deny that they are suffering from a medical condition, to hide their drinking, and to drink alone. This pattern, in turn, leads family, physicians, and others to be less likely to suspect that a woman they know is an alcoholic. In contrast, reduced fear of stigma may lead men to admit that they are suffering from a medical condition, to display their drinking publicly, and to drink in groups. This pattern, in turn, leads family, physicians, and others to be more likely to suspect that a man they know is an alcoholic.
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I agree with Jann B.'s earlier comments that the resistance of some AA members to pharmacological assistance has helped to create the divide between 12 Step recovery and academic addiction medicine. In fact, resistance by active alcoholics to psychological assisstance - mostly by withholding the true nature of their addiction - was addressed in AA's original publication in 1939 of the text Alcoholilcs Anonymous. It acknowledged that the alcoholic him/herself was in part responsible for the skepticism many professionals felt when treating alcoholics. However, AA literature also is quite clear (in the text and via subsequent pamphlets) about the importance of seeking outside help and being open-minded to the advice of a helping professional.
That said, I believe the divide between 12 Step recovery and academic addiction medicine is largely a result of AA's non-scientific approach. The nature of addiction and subsequent recovery through 12 Step work is not easily measurable or definable. Academia can measure length of sobriety and certain facts, but is not able to tell us why this occurs...at least not in a quantitative way. As a result, tends to avoid embracing 12 Step recovery because they cannot define it measurable scientific methods.
Fortunately to the suffering alchoholic who desires escape from the hell of alchoholism, 12 Step recovery doesn't necessitate understanding the process, it requires doing the process.
Having more than one drink a day for women or two drinks for men increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke. Risk is greater in younger people due to binge drinking, which may result in violence or accidents. About 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are believed to be due to alcohol each year. Alcoholism reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years and alcohol use is the third leading cause of early death in the United States. No professional medical association recommends that people who are nondrinkers should start drinking wine. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause a number of physical symptoms, including cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, epilepsy, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, peptic ulcers and sexual dysfunction, and can eventually be fatal. Other physical effects include an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, alcoholic liver disease, and several cancers. Damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur from sustained alcohol consumption. A wide range of immunologic defects can result and there may be a generalized skeletal fragility, in addition to a recognized tendency to accidental injury, resulting a propensity to bone fractures.
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The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2010 there were 208 million people with alcoholism worldwide (4.1% of the population over 15 years of age). In the United States, about 17 million (7%) of adults and 0.7 million (2.8%) of those age 12 to 17 years of age are affected. It is more common among males and young adults, becoming less common in middle and old age. It is the least common in Africa, at 1.1%, and has the highest rates in Eastern Europe, at 11%. Alcoholism directly resulted in 139,000 deaths in 2013, up from 112,000 deaths in 1990. A total of 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are believed to be due to alcohol. It often reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years. In the United States, it resulted in economic costs of $224 billion USD in 2006. Many terms, some insulting and others informal, have been used to refer to people affected by alcoholism; the expressions include tippler, drunkard, dipsomaniac and souse. In 1979, the World Health Organization discouraged the use of "alcoholism" due to its inexact meaning, preferring "alcohol dependence syndrome".
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
In the United States and Canada, AA meetings are held in hundreds of correctional facilities. The AA General Service Office has published a workbook with detailed recommendations for methods of approaching correctional-facility officials with the intent of developing an in-prison AA program. In addition, AA publishes a variety of pamphlets specifically for the incarcerated alcoholic. Additionally, the AA General Service Office provides a pamphlet with guidelines for members working with incarcerated alcoholics.
The Steps start from a basic acceptance that we can control and change only ourselves and our own reactions to people and events. Twelve Step participants take ongoing inventory of themselves and honestly acknowledge the ways they have hurt themselves and others. When they are ready, they attempt to make amends to all persons they have harmed. Trust, acceptance, love, goodwill and forgiveness are key elements in a Twelve Step program just as they are important elements of any healthy relationship.
Steps 1-9 set up a strong spiritual foundation and a new way of life without drugs and alcohol. With Step 10, individuals are seeking daily accountability for their actions. Recovery is ongoing, and individuals continue to examine how their thoughts, words, behaviors, and actions impact daily life and how to keep themselves in line with their faith and God’s will. Individuals are asked to take inventory every day and immediately correct any wrongs that are apparent. This may be accomplished by keeping a journal or devising another method of self-examination each evening, for instance. By understanding how certain things may make a person feel and therefore act, individuals can become more aware of themselves and their behaviors. Step 10 involves personal reflections and a kind of spot-checking to keep oneself balanced emotionally.
Morgan and his colleagues used data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, xamining the gender-specific prevalence of Axis I (clinical disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, social phobia) and Axis II (personality disorders such as paranoia, antisocial and borderline personality) disorders in 40,374 respondents (23,006 males, 17,368 females) with and without a history of paternal or maternal alcoholism.
In my 30 years as an addiction counselor I've been amazed by the practically obsessive attempts to push the 12-step philosophy to the forefront of treatment methodology, and to ignore research. Does anyone remember that Bill W. once remarked that he never considered AA to be a panacea for addiction? In fact, few people know he considered the nutritional therapy of Vitamin B3 to be perhaps the most effective means of treating symptoms of depression he found closely linked to alcoholism. He wanted to be remembered more for promoting B3 therapy than AA itself. The point is, support is support, and science is science. I've never had any qualms whatsoever about my clients attending AA or NA meetings. It's their free time; they can attend or not. If my role is to teach or persuade them to go, why do I need a clinical license and a Master's Degree? Why did I need to take exams? (Which, by the way, never 'assessed' my ability as AA promoter.) I take my work more seriously than just encouraging support group concepts or involvement. I see my role alternately as providing up-to-date information about behavioral therapies, relapse prevention approaches, and being a force for connection and inspiration. We should be appalled by the slow transfer of research to practice. There's a lot more we can do for our clients, and we're not doing it. I think it's high time for the traditionalists in our field to recognize that our clients need the benefits of science, not more AA instruction and orientation.