Alcoholism Essay, Research Paper
I am sitting at home playing Nintendo with my roommate, jake, when I hear a
knock at the door. I wonder who in the world would be coming over this late at
night, because it’s after midnight. As I open the door, the tired, bloodshot
eyes of my upstairs neighbor, Steve, stare at me. ?Hi Sam,? Steve says. As
he attempts to enter my apartment, he stumbles on the slight rise where the
weather strip runs under the door. As he trips, his forehead smashes onto the
edge of the coffee table leaving a deep and bloody gash. I run in the bathroom
and grab a towel while Jake tries to help Steve. It doesn’t take us long to
realize that Steve is going to need stitches and is in no condition to drive. He
smells strongly of alcohol. We place a make-shift bandage on his cut and throw
him in Jake’s Chevy truck. On the way to the hospital, Steve starts complaining
about being really cold. He is talking incoherently and half crying. I ask Steve
what he has been doing, and he just hangs his head down mumbling about drinking.
Steve isn’t a social drinker. He drinks alone. He explains that he has been
drinking by himself all night long. Steve is not a young college kid
experimenting with alcohol. Steve is over thirty years old. Steve drinks nearly
every night. Steve is an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease that affects many
people in the United States today. It not only affects the alcoholic, but also
their family, friends, co-workers, and eventually total strangers. The symptoms
are many, as are the causes and the effects. Alcoholism is defined as a pattern
of drinking in which harmful consequences result for the drinker, yet, they
continue to drink. There are two types of drinkers. The first type, the casual
or social drinker, drinks because they want to. They drink Dodd 2 with a friend
or with a group for pleasure and only on occasion. The other type, the
compulsive drinker, drinks because they have to, despite the adverse effects
that drinking has on their lives. The symptoms of alcoholism vary from person to
person, but the most common symptoms seen are changes in emotional state or
stability, behavior, and personality. "Alcoholics may become angry and
argumentative, quiet and withdrawn or depressed. They may also feel more
anxious, sad, tense, and confused. They then seek relief by drinking more"
(Gitlow 175). "Because time and amount of drinking are uncontrollable, the
alcoholic is likely to engage in such behaviors as  breaking family
commitments, both major and minor;  spending more money than planned; 
drinking while intoxicated and getting arrested;  making inappropriate
remarks to friends, family, and co-workers;  arguing, fighting and other
anti-social actions. The alcoholic would probably never do such things, nor
approve of them in others unless he was drinking" (Johnson 203). The cause
of alcoholism is a combination of biological, psychological, and cultural
factors that may contribute to the development of alcoholism in an individual.
Alcoholism seems to run in families. "Although there is no conclusive
indication of how the alcoholism of families members is associated, studies show
that 50 to 80 percent of all alcoholics have had a close alcoholic
relative" (Caplan 266). Some researchers have suggested that in several
cases, alcoholics have an inherited, predisposition to alcohol addiction.
Studies of animals and human twins have lent support to this theory. Alcoholism
can also be related to emotional instabilities. For example, alcoholism is often
associated with a family history of manic-depressive illness. Dodd 3
Additionally, like many other drug abusers, alcoholics often drink hoping to
"drown’ anxious or depressed feelings. Some alcoholics drink to reduce
strong inhibitions or guilt about expressing negative feelings. Social and
cultural factors play roles in to establishing drinking patterns and the
development of alcoholism. In some cultures, there is conflict between
abstaining and accepting the use of alcohol as a way to change moods or to be
social, thus making it difficult for some people to develop stable attitudes
about and moderate patterns of drinking. Society tends to aid in the development
of alcoholism by making alcohol seem glamorous, showing that by drinking, you
will become more popular, more glamorous and more worthy of respects from
others. The physical effects of alcoholism are some what gruesome. Excessive in
take and prolonged use of alcohol can cause serious disturbances in body
chemistry. "Many alcoholics exhibit swollen and tender livers. The
prolonged use of large amounts of alcoholism without adequate diet may cause
serious liver damage, such as cirrhosis of the liver" (McCarthy 505).
Alcoholism also causes loss of muscular control. The condition, delirium
tremens, known primarily to heavy drinkers, causes hallucinations along with
loss of control of muscular functioning. When this condition develops and the
alcoholic slows their drinking, withdrawal syndrome can and often does occur.
This may include agitation, tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. Alcoholism
also causes damage to the brain. Alcoholics may suffer from lack of
concentration. The alcoholic may also experience "blackouts,"
occasional onsets of memory lapses, and possibly complete memory loss. They may
also suffer from more serious forms of brain damage. The social effects of
alcoholism can be as devastating as the physical effects. Dodd 4 Children of
alcoholics may be affected by the parents alcoholism in several different ways.
Having a problem- drinker parent often increases the risk of becoming a problem
drinker oneself. This may happen for reasons such as identification with or
imitation of the alcoholic parent. It may also happen because of the social and
family conditions that are thought to be associated with the development of
alcoholism. These include family conflict, job insecurity, divorce, and social
stigma. Alcoholism is an outrageous public health problem. "The Institute
of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that alcoholism and
alcohol abuse in the United States cost society from $40 to $60 billion
annually, due to the lost production, health and medical care, motor vehicle
accidents, violent crime, and social programs that respond to alcohol problems.
One half of all traffic fatalities and one-third of all traffic injuries are
related to to the abuse of alcohol" (Caplan 266). Accidents and suicides
that are associated with alcohol problems are especially prominent in the teen
years. It is estimated that over 3 million teens between the ages of 14 and 17
in the United States today are problem drinkers. Alcoholism is a serious problem
in today’s society. It is extremely important that the public, including the
large groups of users and abusers of alcohol, gain as much knowledge as possible
about the symptoms and effects of alcoholism if we ever want to see the
reduction of statics involving fatalities, injuries, diseases caused from the
use and abuse of alcohol. Education and realization of the effects alcoholism
can have on the different aspects of a person’s life are the best ways that we
can help control the number of alcoholics in the United States.
Caplan, Roberta. "Alcoholism." Academic American Encyclopedia.
1992. Gitlow, Stanley E., MD "Alcoholism." New Book Of Knowledge.
1991. Johnson, Vernon. Everything You Need To Know About Chemical Dependency.
1994. Vernon Johnson’s Guide For Families. Minneapolis: Johnson Institute. 1998.
McCarthy, Raymond G. "Alcoholism." Collier’s Encyclopedia. 1974.