Dual Prognosis Mental Illness and Alcoholism

Alcoholism has a significant adverse impact on mental health. Alcohol dependence and abuse are among the most common mental disorders. In addition, although the biological mechanisms underpinning alcoholism are uncertain, some risk factors, including social environment, emotional health and genetic predisposition, have been identified. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10 million adults and 3 million children are alcoholics. Psychiatric disorders are common in alcoholics, especially anxiety and depression disorders, with as many as 25% of alcoholics presenting with severe psychiatric disturbances. The recent National Co morbidity Survey says that 23.5% of Americans may become dependent or abuse alcohol sometime in their lives. Heavy drinking affects almost every system in the body including the nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and endocrine systems. The first episode of alcohol intoxication usually occurs in the early to mid-teens and alcohol dependence usually peaks between the ages of 20 to mid-30s. Alcoholic dependence often follows family patterns. The risk is 3 to 4 times higher for someone to develop alcohol dependence if he or she has close relatives who are alcohol dependent.
For clinical and research purposes, formal diagnostic criteria for alcoholism also have been developed. Such criteria are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as in the International Classification Diseases, published by the World Health Organization Chronic effects of alcohol consumption include effects of its metabolism in the liver, its effects on the brain, and effects of addiction (alcoholism).
An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course; and it has symptoms.
Ethyl alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects regions in the brain that control behavior, so naturally people feel more outgoing and talkative. But, if a person continues to drink, the alcohol will slow the responses of the brain and nervous system, which could lead to sleep or unconsciousness. Unlike other tablet-form drugs, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Typically, a drink will reach the bloodstream within 15 minutes of consumption and peak in 30 minutes or so. The rate of alcohol consumption depends on how strong the drink is, if there is food in the stomach, and the persons’ weight, size, sex, age, race, and family history. Alcohol is a drug and it is addictive. If you drink too much, your body will build up tolerance, and you will have to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk or intoxicated. If a person suddenly stops drinking, he or she can suffer from withdrawal.
Alcoholism treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. Treatment has helped many people stop drinking and rebuild their lives. The treatment community for alcoholism typically supports an abstinence-based zero tolerance approach; however, there are some who promote a harm-reduction approach as well. Alcohol treatment programs are available for anyone who has a problem with binge drinking or alcoholism. There are several sites on the Internet with information about alcohol-related disorders and recovery programs for alcohol abusers. Any treatment program should include an Alcohol Support Group to facilitate recovery and relapse prevention.

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