There are a variety of reasons:
- Age, Gender, Race or Ethnicity.
- Physical condition (weight, fitness level, etc).
- Amount of food eaten before drinking alcohol.
- How quickly they drink the alcohol.
- Use of other drugs, legal (prescription medicines) or illegal (marijuana etc.)
- Family history of alcohol problems.
The current mainstream scientific and medical view is that alcoholism is a disease. Although some debate on this topic still occurs — my personal experience validates the disease model.
The first time I tried alcohol, I was about 13. I remember accepting an offer of one beer. The rest is fuzzy because I blacked out. The next memory I had was feeling terrible the next day. My mom told me I had been throwing-up all night. My plan — I need to drink more often, because it was clear that I didn’t have any “practice”. I never saw adults vomiting after they drank, so certainly, after a few more drinking episodes I will get the “hang” of it. I drank from age 13 to age 26. During those 13 years, never did I experience a “normal social” drink. So, you would be hard pressed to convince me, that my drinking problem stemmed from morals issues, or lack of willpower.
What is alcoholism?
It’s not as straightforward as you might think. The short answer — alcoholism is a dependence on alcohol. The longer answer — there are four symptoms of alcoholism. The first one is having a craving or strong urge to drink. The second symptom is not being able to stop drinking once you start. This can sometimes be tricky to comprehend, because you can drink once a year and still be an alcoholic. You see, It’s not only how often you drink, but what happens after you take the first drink. Third, is physical dependence. This means that when you stop drinking you have side effects like nausea, shakes and or anxiety. Fourth, is developing a tolerance. This is the need to drink a larger quantity to get the same feeling.
A non-alcoholic can plan out how much they will drink and have little trouble keeping to their plan. An alcoholic might occasionally keep to their plan but can not do it every time.
Example: I like to eat at nice restaurants. I am on a budget, so each month I set aside some money to try out a fancy restaurant or two. My husband and I make two reservations at the beginning of the month. We effortless stick to our plan. We enjoy our two nice meals and think nothing more of it.
A non-alcoholic can do the same thing with liquor. Example: Sam decides to have two drinks at a party, but not more. He has an early meeting the next day and three drinks will hinder his performance. He easily orders only two drinks and thinks nothing more of it.
What about a problem drinker — is that the same thing as an alcoholic? Simply put — no. You can have problems with drinking without being diagnosed as an alcoholic. This kind of consumption is sometimes referred to as heavy drinking or drinking abuse. You might find it interesting that not all problem drinkers turn into alcoholics. Here is how I have come to understand it. If drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem. It’s really that simple. A problem drinker can stop drinking, if there is good enough reason for it. Let’s take another example. Stewart is a heavy drinker. He has 2 to 5 cocktails every day. Some days he drinks even more. During his annual check-up he discovers he has a (potentially deadly) medical condition. The doctor tells him there is a surgical procedure that can cure him. He schedules the surgery to be preformed in six weeks. The doctor warns him not to drink before the surgery. In fact, he is told that if he drinks anything alcoholic, in the upcoming six weeks, the surgery will most likely fail. So Stewart, follows the doctors orders and does not drink for six weeks. He misses the drinking. He is moody and has sugar cravings. However, he follow the doctors orders, without too much difficulty.
If Stewart is an alcoholic, he will drink despite the warning. It will baffle the doctor, his family and himself. Why, with so much on the line, would he drink? He has willpower in all other aspects of his life. He is reasonable and successful in all of his choices. It doesn’t make any sense. The disease of alcoholism convinces a person that it will be different this time. And, the real alcoholic has the most trouble when he stops drinking. That is because, when life presents difficulties, there is an instinctive reaction to reach for something to alter the brain. No amount of training, or self-knowledge seems to fix this instinct.
Question: Is alcoholism genetically inherited?
Answer: Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism runs in families. But just because there is a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that the child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic. Not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. And some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.
Lifestyle is a critical factor, as well. Your friends, the amount of stress in your life, and how readily alcohol is available are factors that may increase your risk for alcoholism.
Question: Can alcoholism be cured?
Answer: No, alcoholism cannot be cured at this time. Even if an alcoholic hasn’t been drinking for a long time, he or she can still suffer a relapse. Not drinking is the safest course for most people with alcoholism.
Question: Can alcoholism be treated?
Answer: Yes, alcoholism can be treated. Treatment has helped many people stop drinking, rebuild their lives and life a life in long-term recovery.
In another article, I will talk about the medical professionals and scientists that reject everything I just wrote. I am always open-minded about being wrong, however I can’t discount a lifetime of personal experiments that prove (to me) the disease theory of alcoholism is accurate.