alcoholism

Pathological dependence on alcohol, causing mental or physical symptoms. Alcoholism usually develops imperceptibly. At first the patient drinks in the same way as those around him, then an increasing need for relaxation and increasing tolerance to alcohol make him drink larger quantities. The next stage is that alcohol is used as an intoxicant: the patient drinks himself into a stupor. Memory loss sets in and the mind turns more and more to alcohol. The patient takes care always to have alcohol in the house, and cannot keep away from it. He will furtively sneak a quick drink throughout the day, and daily consumption increases rapidly, leading to immoderate drinking, loss of self-control, aggressive behaviour and social isolation. Nutritional deficiencies can cause physical abnormalities. The patient is frequently drunk for long periods. The personality begins to decline. As with any addiction the condition becomes psychopathic, and associated with mental illnesses such as alcoholic psychosis and delirium. Treatment of alcoholism is difficult. First the physical complications are treated with vitamin B preparations, good food and giving up drink, then the addiction and its associated behaviour. Problems which led to excessive drinking must be dealt with, otherwise the alcoholic quickly lapses into his former behaviour. Family and colleagues can help to break old patterns. Alcoholic mental illnesses such as psychosis must also be treated. Because of withdrawal symptoms and characteristic weakness of will it is sometimes necessary to treat alcoholics in a clinic for addicts providing intensive care and control.

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