What is Chronic Alcoholism?

What is Chronic Alcoholism?

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To put it simply, chronic alcoholism is essentially an alcohol use disorder. Chronic alcoholism is not a medical term, but rather one that’s commonly used by the general public to describe moderate to severe alcohol addiction. It is also sometimes used to describe different stages of alcoholism.

 

What Is Chronic Alcoholism?

The term is a bit misleading, here’s why: A chronic condition is defined as one that…

  • Lasts a year or longer
  • Requires ongoing medical attention
  • Puts limitations on one’s daily activities

Alcoholism or, alcohol use disorder, is similarly defined as “a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol”. This condition occurs when alcohol intake has become so problematic that it impacts the individual’s ability to fulfill social, occupational, familial responsibilities despite the negative consequences. ‘Chronic’ is literally in the definition and therefore, the term ‘chronic alcoholism’ is more of a tautology than a distinct concept such as a measure of severity or a timeframe within alcohol addiction.

 

Acute Alcoholism

Although chronic alcoholism and alcoholism are the same things, there is a distinction between that and acute alcoholism. An acute condition is one where the symptoms are extreme and occur rapidly as an immediate response to certain circumstances. In many cases, acute conditions are not long-lasting though the damage caused by them can be. 

Acute alcoholism, therefore, is simply alcohol poisoning, also known as an alcohol overdose. Rapid alcohol consumption causes too much alcohol to be present in the bloodstream, which can then result in the brain shutting down. While the repercussions of such can be long-standing (death or permanent brain damage), alcohol poisoning itself is the result of a single drinking episode rather than long-term drinking habits and therefore is not considered to be a chronic condition.

 

Signs of Chronic Alcoholism

Alcoholism, along with any other type of substance use disorder, is formally determined by criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

  • Drinking more alcohol (or for longer periods of time) than you intended to
  • Wanting to reduce or stop drinking but being unable to
  • Spending a significant amount of time acquiring, using, or recovering from drinking
  • Having cravings
  • Failing to meet basic responsibilities of school, work, or at home
  • Continuing to drink even though it’s negatively affecting your relationships
  • Giving up hobbies or interests
  • Continuing to drink even if it puts you in danger
  • Drinking excessively even though it exacerbates a physical or psychological problem
  • Having to drink more to get an effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Questions related to these areas are used to assess the severity of alcohol addiction and largely dictate the level of treatment one needs. Someone who scores a 6 or more is considered to have a severe AUD; 4-5 is moderate, and 2-3 is mild. 

 

How To Treat Chronic Alcoholism

Alcoholism isn’t a disease that occurs overnight. It takes place after years of habitual abuse and can result in long-lasting, and often debilitating, health complications. At the point someone might be considered to have chronic alcoholism, it’s fair to assume that they are in mid- or end-stage alcoholism where the symptoms are the most severe. The key is to act as quickly as possible. Our Florida medical detox facility can help you safely eliminate alcohol from your system, which would then allow you to move forward with drug & alcohol addiction rehabilitation. 

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm

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