We leap for joy when we hear of someone’s remission from cancer, but we keep a quiet and judgmental countenance when it comes to alcohol remission. Why is there such discrimination against those struggling with alcohol and not against those coping with heart disease? Do we fail to understand that alcoholism is indeed a disease? Is it because we believe that an alcoholic has a choice to be “sick” and a diabetic does not?
In 1956, the American Medical Association officially classified alcoholism as a disease. In 2013, the fifth update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified recovery from alcoholism as remission from a disease. Yet, public stigma about the disease still remains, and many people believe alcoholism is a choice rather than a medical or mental health condition.
Understanding the Disease of Alcoholism
There is not one single person struggling with alcohol addiction who made a conscious decision one day to become an alcoholic. It is a gradual process that usually starts with simple social drinking. Occasional drinking out on the town turns into more frequent drinking at home and finally culminates into a full-fledged dependency on alcohol in order to function.
More than 14 million people across the United States struggle with alcohol addiction, making it the third most common mental health illness in the country. Alcohol addiction differs from alcohol abuse when it comes to withdrawal symptoms. With alcohol abuse, the person drinks far more than is appropriate, but does not suffer withdrawal upon ceasing, nor does the person require increasing amounts of alcohol in order to become intoxicated.
This difference is vital to understand, because withdrawal and increased tolerance are what makes alcohol addiction a true disease. People who have a family history of alcohol addiction, suffer from depression, or have a very low opinion of themselves are at higher risk for developing alcohol dependency.
Educating Society about Alcoholism
Many people struggling with alcohol addiction are reluctant to get help when they realize there is a problem simply because they are afraid of judgment from society. Fear of persecution allows the addiction to continue unless the desire for help is stronger; in many cases, it isn’t. Until society understands that alcoholism is a disease every bit as much as cancer, those who need help will continue to hesitate.
Don’t let fear of judgment keep you from getting treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. At Clarity Way, our drug rehab centers and alcohol recovery programs understand that addiction is an illness that requires treatment, not condemnation. Find your path to recovery, and contact us today.