Pinning down a definitive alcoholism definition is difficult as there is little consensus.
The reason for such a variety of definitions is the different opinions each authority holds regarding alcoholism, and the year the definition took place.
We'll see that in common and historical usage, the definition of alcoholism typically described any condition that results in the continued consumption of alcoholic beverages, despite negative personal and social consequences.
The term "alcoholism" is commonly used but poorly defined.
The World Health Organization defines alcoholism as:
"a term of long-standing use and variable meaning".
The goals of the committee were to create by consensus a revised definition that is:
"Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.
The disease is usually progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic."
Wikipedia's Definition of Alcoholism :
"Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disabling addictive disorder. It is characterized by compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol despite its negative effects on the drinker's health and social standing.
Similar to other drug addictions, alcoholism is medically defined as a treatable disease. The term 'alcoholism' is a widely used term, first coined in 1849 by Magnus Huss, but in medicine was replaced by 'alcohol abuse' and 'alcohol dependence' in the 1980s..."
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):
"A maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress."
That maladaptive pattern is manifested, according to the DSM-IV, by the following behaviors occurring any time within one 12-month period:
Alcoholism, disease concept of: The belief that alcoholism is a condition of primary biological causation and predictable natural history, conforming to accepted definitions of a disease.
The perspective of Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) - that alcoholism, characterized by the individual’s loss of control over drinking and thus over his or her life, was a "sickness" - was carried into the scholarly literature in the 1950s in the form of the disease concept of alcoholism.
Bill W. co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA):
In 1960, Bill W. said:
"We have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity.
For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity.
Therefore we always called it an illness, or a malady -- a far safer term for us to use."
Huss distinguished between two types of alcoholism:
Acute alcoholism was a result of the temporary effects of alcohol taken within a short period of time — drunkenness and intoxication.
Chronic alcoholism was a pathological condition caused by the habitual use of alcoholic beverages in poisonous amounts over a long period of time, which may eventually have extensive and far–reaching effects on the alcoholic’s brain.
Since 1849, the definition of alcoholism has changed endlessly. Today the medical world describes alcoholism as a progressive disease, influenced by several risk factors. It is when excessive drinking starts causing symptoms that affect a person’s body, behavior, and thoughts.
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