The Stigma of Alcoholism
Not everyone who has experienced serious problems with alcohol will wish to be identified as an alcoholic. This is because alcoholism tends to be associated with a certain type of drinker. The majority of individuals with alcohol problems do not fit the stereotype. It is also fair to say that the word alcoholism tends to be closely aligned with a particular philosophy for how this behavior should be treated. If the individual chooses to adopt this description they will usually be accepting that they have a disease called alcoholism. Not every problem drinker will be willing to accept that this is the case.
Alcoholism and the Disease Model of Addiction
Alcoholism is closely related to the disease model of addiction. This is the view that alcoholics have a disease of the brain that can never really be cured. The best that the individual can hope for is an indefinite remission. Alcoholics Anonymous has adopted the disease model to explain addiction. The philosophy of this group is that members have an incurable condition that can only be kept in check by following their spiritual program. The disease model of alcoholism is not universally accepted. There are other theories that suggest that it is a learnt behavior that can be unlearnt. Most experts would agree that lifelong abstinence is the best solution for those with a serious alcohol dependency.
Alcoholism as a Stereotype
Alcoholism is associated with a number of different stereotypes including:
* Homeless with dirty clothes
* Unable to keep a job
* Begging for money
* People who drink cheap alcohol or industrial spirits
* Individuals who are estranged from their family and friends
* Violent drinkers
* People who are publicly drunk
* Alcoholics are most often associated with certain groups – for example, the Irish.
* Deadbeat parents
While there are undoubtedly alcoholics that fit the stereotype the majority do not. There are many high functioning alcoholics who bear little resemblance to the stereotype.
Problems with Alcoholism
The word alcoholism is believed to have been invented in 1849 by a Swedish physician named Magnus Huss. By the end early twentieth century it had become the accepted ways of describing alcohol problems; particularly in the United States.
One of the difficulties with the word alcoholism is that it will have different meanings depending on who is using it. AA members will use it to refer to a disease, but in common speech alcoholism can be used to describe anyone who has a problem with alcohol. Even those individuals who are not chemically dependent may be referred to as alcoholic if they drink too much. Medical professionals will tend not to use the term because it is just too vague.
Other Names for Alcoholism
Alcoholism can also be referred to by other names including:
* Alcohol Dependence Syndrome. This is the name for the alcohol dependency that is preferred by the World Health Organization.
* Alcohol abuse is used to describe a mild form of alcoholism where the individual has not yet developed a physical addiction.
* Alcohol dependence is used to describe people who are mentally and physically dependent. This is how alcoholism is most usually referred to by those in the medical profession.
* Dipsomania was the common way to refer to alcoholism up until the twentieth century. Dipso is ancient Greek word for thirst. It is rare for people to use this term today.
* Problem drinker. This can be used as a way to describe anyone who is struggling to manage their alcohol intake.
There are also a number of slang names for alcoholics including:
* Bibber, as in imbiber
* Dipso – short for dipsomaniac
* Drunk, Drunkard, Habitual Drunk, Chronic Drunk
* Ethanol enthusiast
* Boozer, Chronic Boozer
* Rummy – this usually refers to a homeless alcoholic, or one who drinks Rum
* Sot, from besotted
* Wino – usually a drunk who drinks wine
The Need for the Alcoholism Label
It is not essential that people adopt the alcoholic label in order to escape this addiction. It all depends on the individual’s motivation for avoiding this label. The important thing is that the individual recognizes their problem and becomes willing to do what it takes to rectify the situation. The worry would be if they are suffering from terminal uniqueness and refuses to accept that they have any problem with their drinking. People can become too caught up in the naming of things.