Alcoholism is a serious chronic illness, which is hard to cure. It develops on the basis of a regular and long alcohol intake and is characterized by a special pathological condition of an organism: an uncontrollable inclination to alcohol, a change of its tolerance level and personality degradation. For an alcoholic, the intoxication is the best mental condition. People with this inclination do not follow any reasonable arguments to stop drinking. The alcoholic directs all his/her energy, expenses, and thoughts to getting alcohol without reckoning with a real situation (existence of money in a family, need of going to work). Having drunk once, he/she aspires to get drunk to a full intoxication and to become unconscious. As a rule, alcoholics do not have a snack after drinking alcohol; they lose an emetic reflex, and consequently some quantity of alcohol always remains in an organism. In this case, we can speak about the increased tolerance of alcohol. However, this is a pathological condition when the organism has lost its ability to fight against alcoholic intoxication by vomiting and other mechanisms of protection.
At the late stages of alcoholism, the tolerance of alcohol suddenly goes down, and even small doses of wine cause the same effect on the inveterate alcoholic, as big portions of stiff drinks did in the past. For this stage of alcoholism, a heavy hangover after the alcohol intake is characterized by irritability, malignancy, and feeling sick. During a so-called hard drinking when the person drinks daily, for many days or even weeks, pathological phenomena are so expressed that their elimination needs medical care. One of the characteristic complications during the hard drinking is so-called ‘delirium tremens’.
Thus, not depending on the form of alcoholism, each alcohol intake causes visual changes in an organism; subsequent and increasing doses of alcohol lead to a mental degradation of personality and development of general disease.
After alcohol intake, emotional changes take place, their dynamics differs from the one of the sober person. Emotional reactions of the drunkard are not caused by the real external reasons; they are defined by the internal motives connected with an alcoholic condition. As a result, it turns out that the good or oppressed mood of the drunkard will not always be coordinated with the mood of the people around. However, after the person sobers up, he/she will be capable (if he/she is not a complete alcoholic) to estimate and even to condemn his/her inappropriate behavior. In general, feeling of remorse vanishes in the further development of alcoholism. It is connected with that a peculiar installation is formed in a brain of the drunkard when his/her mentality is aimed at the satisfaction of a burning desire, to get drunk. He/she cannot be interested in serious problems anymore, and those events, which touch a soul of each sober person, are not able to influence his/her feelings. For this reason, there is alienation between the spouses one of whom abuses alcohol. However, at the beginning, their relations are broken only in connection with the tactlessness of the drunkard, but then the condition of “unstable balance” develops to a full misunderstanding. A negative attitude to the identity of the drunkard is formed. As a rule, if the spouse does not cease to drink, there is a dissonance in a family, and quite often it leads to the divorce. In case of household alcoholism, the spouse himself/herself can get out of this situation; however, if a mental dependence on the alcohol has already developed, antialcoholic and psychological treatment is necessary for restoration of the family relationships. The medical narcological assistance is quite effective, at the first stage. It is also necessary to help the doctors to convince the drunkard that such a help is necessary to him/her, if he/she cannot stop to drink him/herself. As a rule, the help of such kind is made in an out-patient order, on-the-job. Hospitalization is necessary only at the late stages of the illness. It is important to note that the earlier drastic measures are taken, the faster success is reached.
Symptoms and Clinical Course of the Disease
The disease develops because of the regular use of alcohol drinks; however, “completely having created, it can continue to develop even during the period of abstention from alcohol. It is characterized by four syndromes, a consecutive development of which defines illness stages”.
According to S. Abbott, the syndrome of the changed reactance “changes in the tolerance of alcohol drinks, disappearance of protective reactions at alcohol overdose, ability to use alcohol systematically and a perversion of its action, amnesia for intoxication”.
The syndrome of mental dependence or persuasive inclination to intoxication is ” a mental discomfort in a sober condition and an improvement of mental functions in a state of intoxication”. The syndrome of physical dependence, in turn, is “a physical (uncontrollable) need for intoxication, loss of control of quantity of the drunken alcohol, an abstinence manifestation, an improvement of physical functions in a state of intoxication”.
Abbott asserts, “The syndrome of the consequences of the chronic intoxication shows in mental, neurologic, somatic spheres and in a social activity”.
The mental consequences of alcoholism include asthenia, psychopathy, personality decrease (growing rude, losing interests and moral values), affective frustration (mood swings, depressions, dysphoria) with aggression and suicide tendencies, in the late stages – “a dementia (a weak-mindedness) a characteristic manifestation – so-called alcoholic humor (flat, rough, tactless) can arise psychotic conditions – sharp (delirious, hallusinosis, paranoid syndromes) and chronic (a hallusinosis, a nonsense of jealousy, psychosis)”.
The neurologic consequences include “sharp brain syndromes – an epileptiform syndrome, Gaye, Vernike, a cerebellar syndrome, neuritis, an atrophy of visual, acoustical nerves (especially using alcohol substitutes)”.
Among the somatic consequences are “an affection of the cardiovascular system, respiratory organs, a stomach, a liver and pancreas, kidneys, insufficiency of the endocrine system, an immune exhaustion” (Pearson 6).
“Incidence, mortality (life shortening for 15 – 20 years) is widespread among the alcoholics”. A traumatism and decrease in work capacity owing to carelessness, misconduct, absence of desire to work, losses of skills, stupidity, fussiness are also reported.
The time from the syndrome emergence to the first noticeable consequences of the chronic intoxication depends not only on the stage of the illness, remoteness and degree of alcohol abuse but also on a constitutional vulnerability of separate systems of the organism; social consequences depend on working and life conditions.
Toxic symptoms of intoxication decrease, including ones that become apparent next morning: a headache, weakness, lack of appetite, slackness; “a sedative action of alcohol and intoxication also decreases, and vitality, an impellent activity rise, a mood, an appetite, a dream, a sexual sphere are not broken in a sober condition”.
The intake of alcoholic beverages usually does not cause discomfort in the daytime; in case of overdose, a feeling of saturation in the intoxication and vomiting remains, but the next morning a disgust at the thought of alcohol disappears. A vitality lifting can be replaced by long periods of irritability or proneness to conflict (which disappears in a state of intoxication).
The alcoholics usually look older than they really are; their hair is ruffled and dim. At the beginning, the face is of the smooth pinkish color, but after some period of time, it becomes hyperemic. “The hyperemia gradually disappears during the abstention and telangiectasia on the nose wings, cheeks, a neck, a top part of a breast appear against pallor”. The tissue tension is lost. The tone of muscles of the alcoholics is restored. The slackness of a circular muscle of a mouth gives a special shape of a mimic weakness, a strong-willed dissoluteness. The negligence in clothes and untidiness are often noted. According to the European scientists, from 20 % to 40 % of all hospital places are occupied by patients with alcoholism and people whose condition was worsened by the abuse of alcohol drinks.
The existence of a psychosomatic frustration in a family, a neurotization and even a psychopathy of a non-drinking spouse very often takes place in the families of alcoholics. Attentive podiatrists notice the indicative children’s pathology. The female alcoholics who continue taking alcohol drinks during their pregnancy, give birth to a “so-called alcoholic fetus (an alcoholic syndrome of a fetus) with rough morphological violations: wrong sizes of the head and a ratio of the head and the body, limbs, obverse and brain parts, deeply planted eyes, a wide nose bridge, a drowned basis of the nose, hypoplasia of maxillary bones, shortening of tubular bones, etc”.
Children of parents abusing alcohol often suffer congenital small brain insufficiency, superfluous mobility, lack of concentration, aspiration to destruction, aggression; their motor, mental development and mastering practical skills are slowed down or appear to be unsatisfactory. In all cases, when having alcoholic parents, children grow in a trauma counseling environment, they are diagnosed with symptoms of neurotization, like logoneurosis, enuresis, nightmares, behavior frustration, like obstinacy, aggression, escapes from the house, and emotions, like anxiety, depressions, suicide attempts. The patients’ mental development is broken; difficulties in education and training, problems in maintaining relationships with contemporaries usually take place.
In conclusion, it is obvious that alcoholism is a serious illness that can cause the development of severe psychological and physical conditions. If the problem is not diagnosed and timely measures are not taken, the illness can lead to complete destruction of organs and subsequent fatal outcome.