Most people often wonder why alcoholism is considered a chronic disease, yet an individual chooses to drink. Another question people ask is why addicts are referred to as victims. According to the Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), a chronic disease is a health condition that can last a year or longer. The condition can be managed through medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy. Failure to intervene early worsens the illness. In every ten Americans, six suffer from a chronic disease. Chronic diseases are among the leading causes of death and disability in the US, annually contributing to about $3.5 trillion in health care costs.
Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease affecting the brain, often characterized by impulsive behavior, compulsive decision-making, and relapse. Its development and manifestation can be caused by genetic and environmental factors and cause biological changes in the brain, making it hard to abstain from drinking without the proper treatment. In the past, alcoholism as a disease was highly misunderstood. People assumed that anyone with an alcohol-use disorder chose to continue drinking. Thanks to research, today, alcohol is considered a disease. That is because it causes severe changes to the brain, preventing one from making the right decisions regarding alcohol. That is why it is regarded as a chronic disease associated with alcohol relapse.
The statistics on alcohol are quite alarming. By 2018, about 14.4 million adults were confirmed to have an alcohol disorder. With the changes that have been happening, that number has gone up significantly. Of the 14.4 million adults, less than 10% are getting help. Alcohol is not just a personal problem, but it affects families, friendships, and society. Also, addicted people are at a higher risk of suffering injuries, hurting other people, and having relationship problems.
Characteristics of a Chronic Disease
Some of the characteristics of chronic disease are as follows:
- A long-lasting illness
- Not communicable
- Does not have a vaccine
- Requires ongoing medical attention
- Caused by several factors
- Worsens without early intervention
- Leads to impaired function
Using a few of these characteristics, then alcoholism becomes a chronic disease. Experts also report that one cannot recover from alcoholism. They will always have a craving associated with the disease. Not everyone using alcohol is an alcoholic. Alcoholism becomes a disease when you lose control over it. When you are unable to stop, continue using it even when the effects are adverse, or depend on it to get by, you are considered an alcoholic.
Why is Alcoholism Considered a Chronic Disease?
Like other chronic diseases, one can be diagnosed with alcoholism based on various symptoms, and it can be managed with proper treatment. There are many treatment methods, from therapy, medication, and counseling. Click here on the various treatment options for people suffering from alcoholism.
Alcoholism has a few elements of heritability, just like chronic diseases. If a member of your family or one of your ancestors was an alcoholic, you are genetically more predisposed to being an alcoholic as well. Growing up in an environment where people drink a lot will also contribute to this.
In addition, alcohol has no cure and comes with a risk of relapse. However, it can be managed through treatment and making lifestyle changes. If one fails to get help, alcoholism usually worsens. It also comes with stages with various symptoms marking each stage. Each stage will be worse than the previous one.
Since alcoholism is considered a long-term disease, it is only necessary that the treatment approach be long-term as well. Also, the treatment needs to evolve with time, addressing the needs of an individual. If you or a loved one is dealing with alcohol addiction, get help as soon as possible before the issues get worse.