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Alcoholism

abuse physical psychological drug

Alcoholism, chronic illness marked by compulsive drinking of alcohol, leading to physical and psychological addiction. Alcohol is a depressant that acts on the central nervous system to reduce anxiety and inhibition. It is a potent and addictive substance that impairs physical coordination, judgment, and perception and, in sufficiently high dosages, can cause unconsciousness or death. Alcohol is nearly unique among potent drugs in that moderate, self-induced levels of intoxication are socially acceptable. Because alcohol is so readily available and its use so generally accepted, its abuse remains by far the most serious drug problem in the United States. Alcohol abuse is the direct cause of crime, delinquency, and accidents that cost billions of dollars, as well as considerable physical and psychological suffering and loss of life. Prolonged alcohol abuse causes cirrhosis of the liver, damages other organs, including the brain and heart, and may contribute to cancer of the esophagus. Drinking during pregnancy is harmful to the fetus. For the severely addicted alcoholic, withdrawal from alcohol is more dangerous and potentially more life-threatening than withdrawal from heroin and must be done under medical supervision. Treatment most often includes individual or group psychological counseling, but may also include prescriptions of Antabuse (disulfiram), which causes unpleasant physical responses, such as nausea, in patients who drink alcohol while they are taking the drug. Research continues into the causes of alcoholism, including findings that indicate a genetic component in the disease suggesting heredity.

See also: Alcoholics Anonymous; Drug abuse.

(Amos) Bronson Alcott [next] [back] Alcoholics Anonymous

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