Alcoholism is a devastating condition that can lead to many physical and mental health problems for the individual. It is not only the alcoholic who suffers from such substance abuse but also those who live with them as well. The prognosis for alcoholism is poor unless the individual is willing to enter recovery and remain abstinent thereafter. Those who do make the transition to sobriety can enjoy a full and rewarding life. There are also other individuals who abuse alcohol during a period of their life but later manage to regain control. This is far more likely to occur where the person has not become chemically addicted. Once the individual is physically dependent the only viable solution will be complete abstinence from alcohol.
The exact figures for alcoholic morbidity and mortality are difficult to establish because this drug can lead indirectly to a lot of sickness and death. It is estimated that up to 12% of adults in the United States will develop at least a dependence on alcohol during their lifetime. The number of people who meet the criteria for alcoholism is about 10% in the United States and almost twice that percentage in Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholism#Epidemiology). There are believed to be 140 million people addicted to alcohol globally.
It is believed that at least 75,000 people in the USA die because of alcoholism each year. The majority of these deaths occur because of accidents while under the influence of alcohol. About 35,000 people die from alcoholic liver disease each year. It is almost impossible to determine the exact number of sick days from work that are caused by overindulgence in alcohol.
Even when an alcoholic becomes sober there is still a risk of further problems in the future. There is a high relapse rate for those dealing with this addiction. Those who do eventually achieve sustained sobriety may have had a few failed attempts at recovery in the past. Relapse is a real danger and it can occur even when people have been sober for decades. Many of those who return to alcoholism will die because of it.
A small minority of those who are alcohol dependent may be able to return to some form of controlled drinking. Long-term studies though, indicate that such people are highly likely to eventually return to alcoholism. Those alcoholics who continue to drink will usually die from an alcohol related disease or accident. About 18% of them will commit suicide to escape their misery.
Success in recovery from alcoholism is the only sure way that the individual can improve their prognosis. This means finding a satisfying life without the need for any type of mind altering chemicals. Most alcoholics will have struggled with life before addiction, so when they get sober they need to develop new coping strategies. If they fail to do this it will mean the stresses of normal living will be too high. They will relapse back into addiction or live a life that is unsatisfactory. There is never any guarantee that an alcoholic will have another shot at recovery so all possible efforts need to be made to prevent relapse.
There are many things that an alcoholic can do to improve their alcoholic prognosis including:
* Getting sober and remaining completely abstinent from intoxicants for the rest of their life.
* Joining a recovery support group like AA. This keeps the individual motivated to remain away from alcohol and offers a lot of support. It is accepted that social networks have an influence on how people live. Those who surround themselves with sober people will have a much higher chance of a successful recovery from alcohol abuse. There are many individuals who do not feel comfortable with 12 step recovery groups. It may possible to get the same type of support using other alternatives such as counseling or even just sober friends.
* Developing new interests and hobbies is probably the most crucial aspects of remaining abstinent from alcohol. Those individuals who don’t build an enjoyable life in recovery are far more likely to miss alcohol and therefore relapse. Drinking takes up a lot of time and people in recovery need to find more productive ways to use this time in the future. Boredom is one of the most dangerous relapse triggers and needs to be avoided.
* Those who remember the pain of addiction are far less likely to return to it. After a few months or years the alcoholic can forget how bad things were. Becoming too complacent with recovery should be avoided and reflecting on the benefits of sobriety can help avoid this. Sobriety is a lifetime commitment that requires continual vigilance.
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