DESCRIPTIONAlcoholism means a psychological and physiological dependence on alcohol, resulting in chronic disease and disruption of interpersonal, family, and work relationships. The brain, central nervous system, liver, and heart are involved. Alcoholism occurs 4 times more often in males than females. It may develop at any age after adolescence, when drinking begins.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care. The first and most difficult step of treatment is for your child to admit the problem exists.
Psychotherapy or counseling.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSLow tolerance for anxiety.
Need for alcohol at the beginning of the day, or at times of stress.
Habitual Monday-morning hangovers, and frequent absences from school and work.
Preoccupation with obtaining alcohol and hiding drinking from family and friends.
Guilt or irritability when others suggest drinking is excessive.
Frequent blackouts; memory loss.
Delirium tremens (tremors, hallucinations, confusion, sweating, rapid heartbeat). These occur most often with alcohol withdrawal.
Liver disease (jaundice, internal bleeding, bloating).
Neurological impairment (numbness and tingling in hands and feet, declining sexual interest and potency, confusion, coma).
Congestive heart failure (shortness of breath, swelling of feet).
Early stages to look for in your child:
CAUSESPersonality factors, especially dependency, anger, mania, depression, or introversion.
Family influences, especially alcoholic or divorced parents.
Social and cultural pressure to drink.
Body-chemistry disturbances (perhaps).
Not fully understood, but include:
RISK FACTORSGenetic factors. Some ethnic groups have high alcoholism rates -- either for social or biological reasons.
Use of recreational drugs.
Crisis situations, including frequent moves, or loss of friends or family.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Provide your child with a loving, stable family environment. Use alcohol in moderation -- if at all -- to provide a healthy role model.
Encourage your child to admit when an alcohol problem exists, and seek professional
care. Some employers and health-insurance companies pay for treatment.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies of blood and liver function.
EEG (See Glossary).
Chronic liver disease.
Gastric erosion with bleeding; stomach inflammation.
Neuritis, tremors, seizures, and brain impairment.
Inflammation of the pancreas.
Inflammation of the heart.
Mental and physical damage to the fetus if a mother drinks during pregnancy.
Family members of alcoholics may develop psychological symptoms requiring treatment and support groups such as Al-Anon.
PROBABLE OUTCOMEWithout treatment: progressive brain and liver disease; poor school performance and possibly criminal behavior; painful, premature death.
With treatment, alcoholism is often curable.
HOME CAREInstructions for your child:
Keep appointments with doctors and counselors.
Join a local Alcoholics Anonymous group and attend regularly.
Reassess your lifestyle -- friends, school, work, family -- to identify and alter factors that encourage drinking.
Your doctor may prescribe disulfiram (Antabuse), which causes several extremely unpleasant physical symptoms when your child consumes alcohol.
Your child should not drink and drive.
DIET & FLUIDS
Your child should have a normal, well-balanced diet. Vitamin supplements, such as thiamine and folic acid, are often necessary.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite returns and alertness, strength, and feeling of well- being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child or any family member has symptoms of alcoholism.