Cardiology

Emphysema may raise risk of ruptured aneurysms

When a weakened artery wall balloons or bulges, it's called an aneurysm. For people with emphysema, the risk of that aneurysm rupturing is much higher than for those without the lung condition, new research suggests.

Psychology & Psychiatry

Inflammation links heart disease and depression, study finds

People with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression, and the opposite is also true. Now, scientists at the University of Cambridge believe they have identified a link between these two conditions: inflammation—the ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

Periodontitis may raise the risk for developing dementia

Gum disease (gingivitis) that goes untreated can become periodontitis. When this happens, the infection that affected your gums causes loss in the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis is the main cause of tooth loss ...

Health

The facts about driving after marijuana use

As the national debate on marijuana legalization continues, we asked Dr. Yifrah Kaminer, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics in the Department of Psychiatry and Alcohol Research Center at UConn Health, to share his assessment ...

Medical economics

Benefits of informal health expertise

A helpful reminder – something as simple as "Are you taking your medications?" – could conceivably prolong a life.

Psychology & Psychiatry

California looks to lead nation in unraveling childhood trauma

Imagine identifying a toxin so potent it could rewire a child's brain and erode his immune system. A substance that, in high doses, tripled the risk of heart disease and lung cancer and reduced life expectancy by 20 years.

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Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically a neurological disorder, and in medicine several other terms are used, specifically "alcohol abuse" and "alcohol dependence" which have more specific definitions. In 1979 an expert World Health Organization committee discouraged the use of "alcoholism" in medicine, preferring the category of "alcohol dependence syndrome". In the 19th and early 20th centuries, alcohol dependence in general was called dipsomania, but that term now has a much more specific meaning. People suffering from alcoholism are often called "alcoholics". Many other terms, some of them insulting or informal, have been used throughout history. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 140 million people with alcoholism worldwide.

Alcoholism is called a "dual disease" since it includes both mental and physical components. The biological mechanisms that cause alcoholism are not well understood. Social environment, stress, mental health, family history, age, ethnic group, and gender all influence the risk for the condition. Long-term alcohol abuse produces changes in the brain's structure and chemistry such as tolerance and physical dependence. These changes maintain the person with alcoholism's compulsive inability to stop drinking and result in alcohol withdrawal syndrome if the person stops. Alcohol damages almost every organ in the body, including the brain. The cumulative toxic effects of chronic alcohol abuse can cause both medical and psychiatric problems.

Identifying alcoholism is difficult because of the social stigma associated with the disease that causes people with alcoholism to avoid diagnosis and treatment for fear of shame or social consequences. The evaluation responses to a group of standardized questioning is a common method for diagnosing alcoholism. These can be used to identify harmful drinking patterns, including alcoholism. In general, problem drinking is considered alcoholism when the person continues to drink despite wanting to stop because of social or health problems caused by drinking.

Treatment of alcoholism takes several steps. Because of the medical problems that can be caused by withdrawal, alcohol detoxification is carefully controlled and may involve medications such as benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium). People with alcoholism also sometimes have other addictions, including addictions to benzodiazepines, which may complicate this step. After detoxification, other support such as group therapy or self-help groups are used to help the person remain sober. Thombs (1999) states according to behavioural sciences alcoholism is described as a “maladaptive behaviour”. He explains this must not be confused with “misbehaviour”. Behavioural scientists explain that addicts have a behaviour pattern that may lead to destructive consequences for themselves, their families and society. This does not label addicts as bad or irresponsible. Compared with men, women are more sensitive to alcohol's harmful physical, cerebral, and mental effects.

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