Alcoholism is a disease that affects millions of people all over the world. And, all those people are affected in different ways and have problems with alcohol because of different reasons. Some individuals drink and engage in high risk behaviors such as binge drinking. Others drink chronically and alcohol has had an adverse effect on their families, jobs and other relationships. Some people can drink at levels that are beyond our comprehension and still manage to hold jobs and and family together while others can get intoxicated from small amounts of alcohol. Depression, anxiety, anger, family problems, work stress and social awkwardness are just some of the reasons people turn to drink.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has studied a large sample of individuals who suffer from alcoholism and determined that there is no typical alcoholic, but rather 5 main alcoholic subtypes. By studying into the behavioral characteristics that certain types show, it has provided important information regarding treatment options.
* Craving – strong need to have alcohol
* Loss of control – an inability to cease drinking, no control of the situation
* Physical dependence – withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not drunk which includes nausea and vomiting
* Tolerance – more alcohol required to meet cravings and to get drunk
Each of the alcoholic subtypes determined by the NIAA research has its own distinct characteristics, drinking behaviors and risk factors. The five subtypes of alcoholics that the NIAAA study found are:
* The young adult subtype – largest group and yet the least likely to seek help for their problems with alcohol
* The young antisocial subtype – tend to be in their mid-twenties and can be categorized by early onset of drinking and alcohol related problems, often have depression or other mental health issues.
* Functional subtype – Usually middle aged, educated and employed
* Intermediate familial subtype – Typically middle aged and come from families with mult-generational alcoholism
* Chronic severe subtype – Smallest subtype and can be defined as those who have multi-generational alcoholism in their family, have high rates of personality disorders and other mental health issues plus significant substance abuse issues
Treatments for people who are suffering from alcoholism should not be the same. Each person has distinct and unique coping mechanisms, medical issues and preferences. For example, treating a chronic severe alcoholic requires a different treatment plan to a person who is in the young adult subtype. A chronic severe alcoholic would often require medical intervention and drug treatment, whereas a young adult subtype would benefit better from behavioral-based treatment.
Categorizing someone with alcoholism does not mean that they will necessarily have an easier route to give up alcohol. Alcoholism is a severe and multi-faceted disease that often takes a long time to recover from.
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