Alcoholic is really a descriptive term, rather than a diagnosis. But in popular use, it refers to a
drinker who has become dependent on the drug, to the point of experiencing withdrawal in its
absence — and who continues to drink in spite of the problems it causes. Because alcoholism
often develops slowly, the alcoholic may have become so accustomed to his pattern of drinking
that he’s largely unaware of its negative impact on self and others.
The best way to determine whether you qualify is through an interview with a professional,
usually an hour or so. You’re asked questions about your current and past experiences. You may
also identify risk factors of which you may be unaware.
It’s important to get help because alcoholism is considered potentially fatal – killing directly
through overdose, accident, or organ failure, or indirectly, as a hidden contributor to dozens of
other serious and potentially life-threatening health problems. The life expectancy of a drinking
alcoholic is considerably shorter than that of a non-alcoholic.
A brief comparison of coronary heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, and alcoholism reveals
some common features. All require continuing treatment and monitoring. All battle the problem
of relapse. And for each, the success of treatment depends on the patient’s willingness to make
real changes in lifestyle.