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Do you think you might have problems with alcohol? Do you know anyone who you think drinks more than they need to? How many types of alcoholism are there and what are they?
Alcohol is present in our society as a common substance of consumption at social gatherings and celebrations. However, irresponsible drinking can cause serious problems for the consumer, both in terms of health and in social and professional relationships.
What is alcoholism?
Continuous alcohol consumption leads to physical health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, malnutrition, and cardiovascular problems and increases the probability of suffering from certain types of cancer. In terms of mental health, mood disorders such as depression can occur, exacerbate certain diseases and even cause brain damage. In addition, heavy use can lead to death.
Symptoms of alcoholism
Alcoholism can range from mild to severe depending on the symptoms, but it is harmful in both cases. Symptoms vary from person to person, but generally include the following:
- Inability to limit the amount of alcohol you consume
- Desire or unsuccessful attempts to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink
- Spending time drinking or recovering from drinking
- A strong desire or need to drink alcohol
- Inability to perform work or family responsibilities because of drinking
- Continued use of alcohol, even though you know it is causing health and social problems
- Giving up or reducing social or work activities and hobbies to drink alcohol
- Drinking alcohol in situations where it is not safe, such as while driving or swimming
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol, so that you need more to feel its effect or have a reduced effect for the same amount
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, and shaking, while not drinking, or drinking to avoid these symptoms
- Constantly seeking alcohol and reasons to drink.
Alcoholism includes episodes of alcohol intoxication and episodes with the presence of withdrawal symptoms.
- Symptoms of poisoning: inappropriate behavior, unstable moods, impaired judgment, slurred speech, attention or memory problems, and poor coordination. You may also have so-called blackouts, which are episodes in which you can't remember what happened. Very high levels of alcohol in the blood can cause a coma or even death.
- Withdrawal symptoms: These can occur several hours or up to four or five days after heavy drinking. They include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, sleep disturbances, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and nervousness, anxiety, and even seizures. Symptoms can affect your ability to carry out daily activities.
Could you have problems with alcohol?
We are used to identifying an alcoholic as someone who drinks first thing in the morning, has obvious problems, and spends most of the day drunk. But there are many types of alcoholism and some are very difficult to identify from the outside. And all of them, more or less obvious, can cause very serious health problems.
The following questions can help you decide if you need help or not.
- Have you ever tried to stop drinking for a week and failed to stick with it?
- Has a family member or friend told you that you drink too much?
- Have you woken up and not remembered what happened the night before?
- Have you ever had a drink in the morning or looked forward to a drink in the morning?
- Have you ever felt embarrassed about your drinking?
- Have you ever been late or missed work because of alcohol or a hangover?
- Have you been drinking at home before a social gathering such as a party?
- Have you had any arguments or family problems related to drinking?
The different types of alcoholism
1. Alcoholic Alpha
How many types of alcoholism are there and what are they? Jellinek distinguishes several types of alcoholism in his best-known book "The Disease Concept of Alcoholism": This type of alcoholic has a physical or psychological problem or illness and they drink specifically to reduce the effects of their illness (anxiety, depression, insecurity, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia...). Does not follow social norms regarding time, quantity, and place and yet does not exhibit a lack of control or inability to abstain. This type is also known as avoidance drinking and can progress to gamma.
2. Beta Alcoholism
Another type of alcoholism according to Jellinek's classification is beta. In this type of alcoholism are people who drink regularly and excessively, but do not develop a total dependence on alcohol. They may drink for a long time, stop for long periods, and then drink again. Since they are not addicted, they do not have withdrawal symptoms, but they do develop health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, gastritis, etc. This type can lead to gamma or delta and has a general deterioration of health and a decrease in life expectancy.
3. Alcoholic Epsilon
In the third type of alcoholism according to Jellinek, the person stops drinking for long periods of time, but without clear explanation drinks large amounts of alcohol at specific times. It is a more occasional consumption but when drinking one risks an ethylic coma due to the quantity.
4. Gamma alcoholic
People who belong to this group do not seem to be alcoholics because they hide their addiction. They seem to drink normally, but then health problems related to alcohol consumption start to appear. The addiction starts psychologically and then becomes physical due to withdrawal symptoms.
5. Delta Alcoholics
The last type of alcoholism according to Jellinek is delta. Those who belong to this group drink heavily and daily. They have developed a high tolerance for what apparently does not affect them in the development of their lives. They do not hide their drinking and this makes others believe that they do not have a problem, however, it affects their health. Sometimes they are very drunk despite their tolerance.
6. Chronic alcoholism
One of the classifications of alcoholism is chronic and acute types. To see the difference between chronic and acute alcoholism, I will explain what each consists of.
Chronic alcoholism includes the habitual use of alcoholic beverages. The chronic drinker is usually distrustful, irritable, and has some periods of depression, which in extreme cases can lead to suicide. The consumption affects many of his organs, especially the nervous system (tremors, digestive disorders, etc.). Delirium tremens can occur. This type of alcoholism is associated with high tolerance, dependence, and health problems.
7. Acute alcoholism
This type of alcoholism is temporary. It is occasional heavy drinking with effects ranging from euphoria to sadness or loss of sanity. The person may feel dizzy, nauseous, and vomit. In this type of alcoholism, there is no tolerance, which is why there is a high risk of alcohol comas. If withdrawal symptoms appear, they disappear after a few hours.
Therefore, the fundamental difference between chronic and acute alcoholism is that in the first case there is a habitual consumption of alcohol, while in the second, the consumption is punctual but usually high.
The phases of alcoholism according to Jellinek
Elvin Morton Jellinek was the first to make a scientific study of alcoholism and addictions. He created a graphic model so that everyone could understand the true progression of alcoholism in each person.
The Jellinek scale is used to measure the degrees of alcoholism in people in general. He has identified three phases in the progression of an individual's alcoholism, which we will see in a simple way below:
1. Critical phase
This phase involves the transition from casual social drinking to drinking to relieve anxiety or perceived problems. Alcohol consumption increases, leading to physical and psychological problems that affect social relationships. At first, it doesn't seem to matter, but as the consumption increases, it creates a dependency on alcohol until a point where the person can no longer act normally without drinking.
The person becomes dependent and uses the effects of alcohol to cope with his or her problems. On the other hand, withdrawal syndrome appears, which leads them to drink to eliminate the discomfort it generates.
In this phase, the effects of continued alcohol use begin to be felt, such as loss of mental awareness. Time and resources are devoted to buying and consuming alcohol throughout the day and certain tasks are eliminated to start drinking earlier each time.
As a result, problems start at work, in social, family, and romantic relationships. This is when you move on to the next phase: the chronic phase.
2. Chronic phase
In this phase, the consumption of alcohol is already continuous and has begun to generate problems in different areas of the person's life. Seeing the consequences of drinking, he has tried to stop drinking several times, but without success.
He drinks compulsively and his life revolves around drinking. Find any excuse and any time to drink. Even when he sees all the negative aspects of his addiction, he can't stop drinking. Health is affected and although there are no symptoms of deterioration, internal organs may already be compromised.
He enters a destructive cycle in which he continues to consume alcohol even though he knows the damage it is doing to him and suffers episodes of guilt and despair at not being able to stop drinking.
At this point, if the drinking continues, the consequences can be severe and the end dramatic.
3. Rehabilitation phase
The person realizes the seriousness of the consequences of drinking and decides to stop drinking. To do this, seek outside help. In the rehabilitation process, he or she goes through several steps to get rid of the substances that have made him or her addicted.
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- The Disease Concept of Alcoholism von E.M Jellinek
- Freixa and Sanfeliu, F. (1996). The alcoholic disease, a sociobiological model of the behavioral disorder. Barcelona: Herder