Acoholism: The Silent Kller
Although illegal drugs get most of the attention from the press and public, the greatest drug problem in our society is not from illegal drugs but from that perfectly legal, freely available drug called alcohol. Nearly ¾ of all Americans drink to some extent, and almost 10% of all Americans are heavy drinkers, consuming two or more drinks a day. Approximately 10% of all Americans, nearly 20 million people, will eventually become addicted to alcohol. It's the third leading cause of death in our society, and a major factor in crimes of violence, suicides, and automobile deaths, not including the devastating toll it takes on family. Alcoholism also produces suffering and death by destroying the healthy functioning of the body. Cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, and delirium tremors are but a few of the effects of long-term exposure alcohol can have on the body and mind.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
There is an invisible line between alcohol abuse, and alcohol addiction; not every person who gets drunk is an alcoholic. How then, you know if you or someone you care about has crossed that invisible line from abuse to addiction? Here are some of the warning signs:
Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol intake is interrupted. Withdrawal symptoms include intensified, pronounced trembling during the first 12 hours after withdrawal, irritability, anger, stomach or intestinal upset, and generalized discomfort. Withdrawal from alcohol should only be attempted under medical supervision in a hospital because there is a greater chance of completion if it's supervised. And in some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be extreme and life-threatening, such as a grand mall seizures, hallucinations and delirium tremors.
An inability to function appropriately in social, school, or work situations. Alcoholics often miss work. They become subject to violence, drunk driving, lost jobs and conflicts with friends and family.
Telltale bodily symptoms. Alcohol odor on the breath, tremors, flushed face, and unexplained injuries.
Increased tolerance to the effects of alcohol. Increased tolerance requires increased consumption in order to produce the original “high or the “buzz,”which means spiraling consumption and deepening dependency.
Daily alcohol use in order to function. Inability to curtail or stop drinking despite repeated attempts, habitual inability to sleep without a “nightcap” or drinking early in the morning.
Alcohol-related illness. Cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, gastritis, cerebral brain degeneration, blood coagulation disorders, neuropathy, chronic brain syndrome, and fetal alcohol syndrome-birth defects, low birth weight, and/or mental retardation. Alcoholism is particularly acute in cases where patients continue drinking, despite warnings about such medical complications.
What Causes Alcoholism?
Many people drink alcohol for years and never develop an addiction. Others seem to become alcoholics quite soon after they begin drinking. There is currently no way to tell which person is born to become addicted and which will never be vulnerable to addiction. One theory holds there is a link between genetics and alcoholism, and researchers have identified a specific gene they believe predisposes some people to alcohol addiction. This would partially explain why alcoholism seems to run in families, although environment, the fact children learn about alcohol abuse from their parents is an equally valid explanation. It's important to note that everyone with this gene becomes an alcoholic. What is distressing about this theory is some alcoholics, upon learning about this theory, misinterpret it as meaning they are doomed to alcoholism, and so they surrender to it. No one is doomed to die an alcoholic. A genetic disposition to alcoholism is just one factor of many, and all of these can be overcome.
Another theory holds alcoholism is a learned response to problems and stress. Alcohol is a sedative that temporarily assuages anxiety and emotional pain of present problems and past memories. People learn often by watching alcoholics abusing friends or family members and intoxication enables a person to avoid unpleasant feelings and situations. They also learn to use alcohol as an excuse for socially unacceptable behavior, such as fighting or flirting. “Don't blame him. He didn't know what he was doing. He had a few drinks in him.”
The personality theory provides another explanation for alcoholism, suggesting people with certain types of personality disorders are most likely to become addicts. Most addiction researchers agree, acute alcoholics usually display traits of a passive-dependent or passive-aggressive disorder. A passive-dependent personality is characterized by a failure to assume responsibility for their own life. They behave indecisively, act helpless, have negative and self-defeating attitudes, are inconsiderate, immature, and easily depressed. A passive-aggressive personality is secretly hostile and resentful, tends to passively rebel against work they perform according to certain standards, and use subtle means to sabotage their own performance for the purpose of aggravating others. They are also chronically late; make chronic mistakes; habitually forgetting important responsibilities; and drinking to impair performance.
Other personality disorders that can predispose people to alcoholism include obsessive compulsive disorder, who feel conditionally accepted, and drink to anesthetize the pain and resentment accompanying imperfection and failure, and the sociopath disorder, people users who cheat and exploit others without conscience. Whatever the causes of treatment is roughly the same.
The Christian and Alcohol
It comes as a surprise to most Christians, statistics regarding alcoholism are virtually identical for Christians and non-Christians and problem drinking is a hidden but very real issue in the Protestant church. Social drinking has become much more accepted in Christian circles than in previous years, so that nearly 2/3 of all Protestants, including large numbers of conservative evangelicals, now acknowledge having at least an occasional drink.
To be an evangelical is no longer automatically the equivalent of being a teetotaler. Previous generations of Christians were often warned from the pulpit about the “evils of alcohol,” relational, emotional, and medical dangers of alcohol. Today, pastors rarely mention the subject, except perhaps to criticize those “narrow” and “rigid” Christians opposing the use of alcohol.
At one clinic, there was an enormous number of families, including many Christian one's, ruined by alcohol. So we have a passionate desire to see Christians take this issue very seriously, become informed on the issue of chemical addiction and become educated about symptoms, prevention, addiction, and recovery aspects of this enormous social tragedy. To any Christian who drinks, or considering taking it up, we would pose one question: What benefits of drinking alcohol can you point to that would outweigh the obvious costs, risks, and tragedies resulting from this legal but dangerous drug?