Are you concerned that someone you love is becoming dependent on alcohol? Have you spotted the hallmark signs of addiction and don’t know what to do next? Alcoholism is a terrible condition that can tear apart an individual’s personal, career, physical and emotional functioning.
There is effective treatment for alcoholism. Help your loved one get the professional care they need today by changing the way you view and understand this debilitating condition. Learn more about the disease theory of alcoholism below.
Is Alcoholism a Disease?
Alcoholism is defined by a compulsion or strong urge to consume alcoholic beverages, even at the cost of one’s health and well-being. Many researchers have debated over the past several decades whether alcohol should be considered a disease.
The disease theory of alcoholism states briefly that alcoholism and other substance dependencies, like medical conditions, can be diagnosed and treated. Furthermore, the root causes and the course of the illness can also be recorded and observed respectively.
If you think your loved one may be addicted to alcohol, know that, similar to any other disease, there is a way for them to overcome this illness and get better.
Alcohol vs. Any Medical Disease
If you doubt that alcohol dependency is a disease, it is a simple matter of comparing it to other medical conditions. While these comparisons are not altogether fluid, consider:
High Risk of Relapse
A person recovering from dependency or addiction is at high-risk of relapse if he/she does not continue to receive proper treatment, support, and make the necessary positive environmental changes in life to stay sober. Similarly, a medically ill person with chronic asthma for example, is also in a cycle of remission/relapse when they do not follow their health care procedures correctly or do not make positive environmental changes.
Damage to the Body
If an alcoholic does not get effective treatment, catastrophic damage can be done to the physical body, the liver and other organs surrounding it. A person with a diagnosed medical condition such as diabetes may also experience extensive damage to other previously unaffected organs if the disease is left untreated.
Strain on Finances and Family
Alcoholism creates detrimental barriers to one’s social and occupational functioning, straining the finances and family relationships. In many cases, a biological condition like chronic depression may place similar strain on an individual’s life.
Benefits of Viewing Alcoholism As a Disease
You may wonder why it’s important to view alcoholism as a physiological/psychological disease. Firstly, it is much more straightforward for a person to fight alcoholism if they view it as a medical condition as opposed to a circumstance that has befallen them due to a weakening of the will.
As one addict declared, “It is much easier to think of myself as an ill person working to become well, rather than a bad person becoming good” (Betherson, 2014). In a sense, viewing alcoholism as a disease makes it easier to manage emotionally.
Taking Possession of Hope
Secondly, this perspective allows your family and your addicted to love one to take possession of the most powerful force on Earth: hope. Believing that the condition your loved one is battling is one that can be studied, observed, and treated gives all of you something to have faith in. Hope is a wonderful, dynamic stimulus for change.
Therefore, understand and believe that although the road to sobriety is a difficult one, you can get there. Others have walked the same path and prevailed. You and your family can, too.
- Wallace, J., The new disease model of alcoholism. National Center for BioTechnology Information, May 1990, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1002402/
- Beresford, T. Models of alcoholism: Medical/ physiological causes, National Council on Drug Dependence and Alcoholism, January 2014, https://ncadd.org/index.php/get-help/ncadd-research-update/982-models-of-alcoholism-medical-physiological-causes