Relapse can be avoided by getting sufficient aftercare. Oftentimes, aftercare involves a peer support group, ongoing therapy, and even a maintenance medication like naltrexone, which reduces or eliminates cravings. Support from family and friends is also a very important part of sustained recovery, so finding a supportive home environment – through a sober home, moving to a new house, or clearing drugs and alcohol out of one’s existing home – is very important. Working with an evidence-based treatment program can help one gather resources about nearby or online support groups and therapists.
As with similar substances with a sedative-hypnotic mechanism, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines, withdrawal from alcohol dependence can be fatal if it is not properly managed.[55][61] Alcohol's primary effect is the increase in stimulation of the GABAA receptor, promoting central nervous system depression. With repeated heavy consumption of alcohol, these receptors are desensitized and reduced in number, resulting in tolerance and physical dependence. When alcohol consumption is stopped too abruptly, the person's nervous system suffers from uncontrolled synapse firing. This can result in symptoms that include anxiety, life-threatening seizures, delirium tremens, hallucinations, shakes and possible heart failure.[62][63] Other neurotransmitter systems are also involved, especially dopamine, NMDA and glutamate.[25][64]
As defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is a disease that disrupts brain chemistry and circuitry, which in turn impacts willpower, reward, memory, and motivation. The first step calls for individuals to accept that they are unable to control their drinking and/or drug use and that their willpower and motivation have been compromised. When someone struggles with addiction, they are no longer able to manage how much and how often drugs and/or alcohol are abused. Recognition of this loss of control and admission of being powerless over addiction is the first step toward recovery.
The cause of alcoholism seems to be a blend of genetic, physical, psychological, environmental, and social factors that vary among individuals. A given person's risk of becoming an alcoholic is three to four times greater if a parent is alcoholic. Some children of alcohol abusers, however, overcome the hereditary pattern by not drinking any alcohol at all.
In 1941, interviews on American radio and favorable articles in US magazines, including a piece by Jack Alexander in The Saturday Evening Post, led to increased book sales and membership.[23] By 1946, as the growing fellowship quarreled over structure, purpose, and authority, as well as finances and publicity, Wilson began to form and promote what became known as AA's "Twelve Traditions," which are guidelines for an altruistic, unaffiliated, non-coercive, and non-hierarchical structure that limited AA's purpose to only helping alcoholics on a non-professional level while shunning publicity. Eventually he gained formal adoption and inclusion of the Twelve Traditions in all future editions of the Big Book.[4] At the 1955 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, Wilson relinquished stewardship of AA to the General Service Conference,[24] as AA grew to millions of members internationally.[25]
Alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, can affect teens, women, men, and the elderly quite differently. Women and the elderly tend to have higher blood concentrations of alcohol compared to men and younger individuals who drink the same amount. Alcoholic women are more at risk for developing physical health problems like cirrhosis of the liver and heart and nerve damage at a faster rate than alcohol-dependent men. Interestingly, men and women seem to have similar learning and memory problems as the result of excessive alcohol intake, but again, women tend to develop those problems twice as fast as men.

Though cautious regarding the medical nature of alcoholism, AA has let others voice opinions. The Big Book states that alcoholism "is an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer." Ernest Kurtz says this is "The closest the book Alcoholics Anonymous comes to a definition of alcoholism."[60] In his introduction to The Big Book, non-member William Silkworth said those unable to moderate their drinking have an allergy. Addressing the allergy concept, AA said "The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account."[61] AA later acknowledged that "alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us."[62] Wilson explained in 1960 why AA had refrained from using the term "disease":
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
As with similar substances with a sedative-hypnotic mechanism, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines, withdrawal from alcohol dependence can be fatal if it is not properly managed.[55][61] Alcohol's primary effect is the increase in stimulation of the GABAA receptor, promoting central nervous system depression. With repeated heavy consumption of alcohol, these receptors are desensitized and reduced in number, resulting in tolerance and physical dependence. When alcohol consumption is stopped too abruptly, the person's nervous system suffers from uncontrolled synapse firing. This can result in symptoms that include anxiety, life-threatening seizures, delirium tremens, hallucinations, shakes and possible heart failure.[62][63] Other neurotransmitter systems are also involved, especially dopamine, NMDA and glutamate.[25][64]
Since 2014, Addiction Center has been an informational web guide for those who are struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring behavioral and mental health disorders. All content included on Addiction Center is created by our team of researchers and journalists. of our articles are fact-based and sourced from relevant publications, government agencies and medical journals.
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