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Alcohol dependence: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About alcohol dependence

Alcohol dependence is a psychiatric condition in which the person is in the habit of repeated alcohol usage in spite of having knowledge of its harmful consequences. This is a progressive, life-threatening condition, where a person is psychologically and physically dependent on alcohol.

Alcohol dependence: Incidence, age and sex

Alcohol dependence is a disorder of young adults and more so young men. Women seldom face this problem of alcohol dependence.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence: Diagnosis

This disorder has a very erratic course with periods of remission between drinking episodes. The patient is well aware of dreadful personal and social problems resulting from chronic alcohol consumption. Alcohol dependent patients experience severe alcohol cravings which forces them into drinking, even during the morning. Everything seems to revolve around alcohol. Such people prefer to interact mostly with people who consume alcohol or going to social gatherings in lure of alcohol. Serious withdrawal symptoms may occur during periods of remission. Gradually, the condition deteriorates and person starts consuming alcohol on daily basis even in absence of company. More may be needed to produce the same effect as before. Sometimes alcohol dependent person may drink excessively to a point of intoxication.

Causes and prevention of alcohol dependence

The exact cause of alcohol dependence is not clear. It may be due to genetic factors since children of alcohol dependent parents are more prone to alcohol dependence. Environmental factors like being in constant company of alcoholics or commencement of drinking at an early age may also play a role.

Alcohol dependence: Complications

Alcohol dependence may have serious social and interpersonal consequences. Household responsibilities and relationships may take a back seat. It also leads to poor performance and frequent avoidance of work. Gradually as the disorder progresses, intellectual impairment and judgemental failure ensue. Alcohol dependence may also lead to serious health problems of which alcoholic liver disease is the commonest. The risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke increases manifold. Alcohol deteriorates both physical and mental health, leading to a marked reduction in life expectancy.

Alcohol dependence: Treatment

Alcohol dependence is treatable mostly in persons who really want to achieve normal well being. The treatment has various modalities, of which detoxification is the primary one. In detoxification, patient needs to be hospitalised where the body gets rid of the offending agent. This detoxification process is usually carried out during the period of remission. This treatment is then followed with anti-alcohol medications like disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate. Alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited with these drugs. The treatment is incomplete without psycho-social counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. Family support is of vital significance in the management of alcohol dependence.