An alcoholic suffers from an addiction to alcohol. It is the addiction to this substance that causes a dangerous loss of control. Alcohol dependence is defined by "any conduct with alcohol characterized by the loss of control of consumption." It affects about 2 million people in France.
Alcoholism is characterized by the gradual and increasing need to consume, withdrawal symptoms occurring when not taking the substance and any other pathology of this nature. Alcohol dependence is indeed the cause of a series of problems at physical, mental and social levels, because the person is isolated and often excludes himself from society.
Alcoholism will cause different problems depending on whether it is recent or old and depending on the amount of alcohol ingested. In the short term, alcohol is likely to cause diseases such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hepatitis, nausea and vomiting. In the medium and long-term, alcohol dependence causes neurological diseases, severe hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, pancreatitis, heart problems and libido disorders. In addition, alcohol significantly increases the risk of fatal road accidents.
The diagnosis of alcoholism can be easily done by questioning. The patient will admit that his consumption is an addiction and the cause of the problems he faces. However some people do not verbalize their substance abuse, so the diagnosis of alcoholism can be established through a series of symptoms or examinations indicative of complications due to alcohol.
Laboratory tests make it possible to find, for example:
- macrocytosis, i.e. an increase in the volume of red blood cells;
- an increase in GGT (gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and gamma-glutamyl transferase);
- the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream, signs of recent alcohol intake;
- deficiencies in B1 vitamins.
The treatment of alcoholism requires an acceptance of the problem by the patient and his agreement to get help. Treatment starts off with the establishment of a withdrawal, more or less progressive with the establishment of milestones for reducing consumption coupled with regular monitoring. The patient may be assisted in this difficult stage by participating in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A psychotherapeutic support must also be put in place to prevent relapse. Here also, patient associations have a major role to play. Finally, there are drugs that reduce the urge to consume alcohol. Recently, baclofen (originally a muscle relaxant) has been proven to provide good results, and studies are underway to validate its relevance as an aid to overcome alcohol withdrawal.
Parents and health professionals should keep their eyes open to be able to react in time when teenagers begin to drink alcohol in excess. Prevention campaigns have been put in place to inform people about the risks of excessive alcohol consumption.
Original article published by
. Translated by Jeff