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Alcoholism: Its Causes and Effects

Drinking alcohol is nearly as old as mankind itself. First used as a food source, it has long been an integral part of practically all cultures throughout the history of the world. People use it to relax and it is seldom absent from any celebratory event no matter how large or small. Alcohol also causes psychological, emotional, and physical problems affecting employment and relationships. Alcohol can affect not only the physical health of the individual but can have long-term repercussions on their psychology and social life as well, strongly affecting the way they relate to the world and those around them.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Alcoholism, 2000), alcohol is among the three largest causes of preventable mortality in the United States. Contributing to approximately 100,000 deaths annually, only tobacco and diet/activity patterns contribute to greater death tolls. Physically, alcohol can have a dramatic impact upon an individual’s body particularly as it affects the liver. According to Dennis Koop (2007), liver damage widely suspected to be directly caused by alcohol consumption is proven and unavoidable.

According to reports by Psych Central, alcoholism does appear to have some hereditary connections. Those individuals who learn they have a high tolerance for alcohol should also be alerted to the fact that they may also have a greater tendency to fall victim to alcoholism while those who have a low tolerance generally do not develop alcoholic tendencies (Psych Central, 2006). Alcoholism is not always the result of hereditary factors however many addictive personality types also become alcoholics despite an absence of the illness within the family line. Instead, it is presumed that these personalities turn to alcohol as a result of anti-social behavior within the home, perhaps as the result of poor home life or abusive parent or sibling. It is also not believed that alcoholism is the cause of aggressive behavior in individuals as not everyone who drinks becomes aggressive with the introduction of alcohol. “In trying to elucidate the relationship between alcohol consumption and aggression, researchers have suggested that people with a psychiatric condition called antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) may be particularly susceptible to alcohol-related aggression” (Moeller & Dougherty, 2001).

Of all drugs, alcohol is most widely used by both adults and youths. Young persons are most at-risk to begin a habit that may ultimately ruin their lives. The need to belong to a group is strong during this time and, combined with the fact that they do not yet possess the decision-making wisdom of adults, often leads to poor choices including opting to use alcohol. They also tend to become bored easily and experience frequent emotional highs and lows, all potential factors in teenage alcohol use. Experimenting with alcohol causes many adverse effects especially in the case of developing youths. The frequency of alcohol use amongst young persons for social, recreational, and experimental reasons is extensive and continues to escalate. Heightened propensities toward violent behaviors have also been linked to alcohol. Alcohol use increases the chance that students will become pregnant, contract a communicable disease, perform poorly in school and attempt suicide (Chaiken & Chaiken, 1989)

For many alcoholics, the deeds they have done in neglecting their families and supporting their habits may have proven too much to bear, driving them to further drink as a means of forgetting about them. Alcohol is the drug most often associated with intoxicant-induced violent crimes. Alcohol is a multi-million dollar business that costs Americans millions in health-related expenses and causes many thousands of deaths every year. It has been and always will be manufactured, sold, and consumed. Even after prohibition in the early part of the last century, it was manufactured, sold, and consumed. Alcohol was there at the beginning of humanity and will be there at the end. The question is how to alleviate the detrimental effects. Moderation and education is the only answer. Given that the illness is so complex, involving so many factors including heredity, environment, childhood influences, personality characteristics, and disorders, finding a cure for alcoholism has been impossible. However, there has been some support for self-help groups in maintaining control over the disease for those willing to put in the effort.

The evils of alcohol are well documented as are methods to reduce the harms initiated by alcohol use such as moderation or through one of several 12 step-type programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the many other programs that have been developed for various other disordered behavior/addictions. Participants in these programs can find a path to a better quality of life and a more complete way of interacting with other people. Prohibition, of course, is not the answer to solving alcohol-related problems. It has been tried and failed miserably. It is well-known that alcohol prohibition encouraged the proliferation of criminal gangs and the associated violent activities. It also made criminals out of policemen who took bribes to ‘look the other way’ while illegal booze was delivered to and consumed at ‘speak easies.’

Works Cited

Alcoholism.com. “Alcohol-related Statistics.” WebMagic. (2000). Web.

Chaiken, J. & Chaiken, M. “Drug Use and Predatory Crime.” Drugs and Crime – Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research. J.Q. Wilson & M. Tonry (Eds.). Vol. 13. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. (1989).

Koop, Dennis. “Alcohol Metabolism’s Damaging Effect on the Cells.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2007). Web.

Moeller, F. Gerard & Dougherty, Donald M. “Antisocial Personality Disorder, Alcohol and Aggression.” Alcohol Research and Health. (2001). Web.

Psych Central Staff. “Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholism.” Symptoms of Alcoholism. (2006).