There are many definitions of alcoholism and addiction. Of the many definitions, some of them provide conflicting information. However, almost all agree that alcoholism and drug addiction are used to describe the person who has lost the ability to control their drinking or drug use despite adverse consequences. The American Medical Association, Alcoholics Anonymous and the DSM are just a few sources that provide information on this complex behavior.
The Journal of American Medical Association defines Alcoholism as “primarily a chronic disease characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol…” Alcoholism and addiction are behaviorally similar, distinguished primarily by the substance consumed by the abuser. In some cases, in the absence of alcohol a person will consume drugs and vise versa. The DSM classifies disorders related to addiction based on states of abuse, dependence or withdrawal. Regardless of how addiction and alcoholism are labeled or classified it is when a person puts harmful substances in their bodies and hopes for positive results.
Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous claim that alcoholism and addiction is a condition that persists even after the person quits drinking or using drugs. Members of these programs generally commit to a life long process of recovery that involves personal and spiritual growth. Although there are alternative approaches to recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs have been the single most effective solution in helping people recover from alcoholism and addiction.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Dr. Tim Fong MD, Head of Addiction Medicine at UCLA: Addictive disorders, both behavioral and substance abuse can present in an incredibly wide variety of symptoms. I have patients who show up with destroyed organs, liver, hearts or kidneys because of drug or alcohol abuse and that’s the first sign of addiction. In general we see behaviorally, there are changes in personality, loss of functioning, or loss of development. As a general rule of thumb for young people between the ages of 18 to 25 we see them not “growing up”, not finishing school, not holding down a job, not able to maintain healthy relationships, not living up to personal life responsibilities. Oftentimes, those are a sign that the person is preoccupied with spending time thinking about drugs, buying drugs or hanging out with the wrong crowd. Just because somebody is irritable or is having a bad day or they are snappy does not mean they are using drugs, but if they are angry irritable and snappy everyday or most days that is a sign that there is something else going on. This could mean maybe drugs, maybe psychiatric stuff like depression or anxiety or it could be a physical symptom of something else. There is concern any time people are not living up to their lives and enjoying it the way they want to or family members notice something isn’t right. Oftentimes that is the time to bring someone in for a full evaluation.