Jump up ^ Alcoholics Anonymous (2001-06-01). "Chapter 2: There Is a Solution". Alcoholics Anonymous (PDF) (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. p. 21. ISBN 1893007162. OCLC 32014950. These observations would be academic and pointless if [he] never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem...centers in his mind....The fact is that most alcoholics...have lost the power of choice in drink...unable, at certain times, to bring into [his] consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of a month or even a week ago. [He] is without defense against the first drink.
Alcohol affects virtually every organ system in the body and, in high doses, can cause coma and death. It affects several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including opiates, GABA, glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine. Increased opiate levels help explain the euphoric effect of alcohol, while its effects on GABA cause anxiolytic and sedative effects.
Alcoholism often reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years. The most common cause of death in alcoholics is from cardiovascular complications. There is a high rate of suicide in chronic alcoholics, which increases the longer a person drinks. Approximately 3–15 percent of alcoholics commit suicide, and research has found that over 50 percent of all suicides are associated with alcohol or drug dependence. This is believed to be due to alcohol causing physiological distortion of brain chemistry, as well as social isolation. Suicide is also very common in adolescent alcohol abusers, with 25 percent of suicides in adolescents being related to alcohol abuse. Among those with alcohol dependence after one year, some met the criteria for low-risk drinking, even though only 25.5 percent of the group received any treatment, with the breakdown as follows: 25 percent were found to be still dependent, 27.3 percent were in partial remission (some symptoms persist), 11.8 percent asymptomatic drinkers (consumption increases chances of relapse) and 35.9 percent were fully recovered—made up of 17.7 percent low-risk drinkers plus 18.2 percent abstainers. In contrast, however, the results of a long-term (60-year) follow-up of two groups of alcoholic men indicated that "return to controlled drinking rarely persisted for much more than a decade without relapse or evolution into abstinence." There was also "return-to-controlled drinking, as reported in short-term studies, is often a mirage."