Alcoholism is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. Nearly 14 percent of the worlds population are suffering from this disease. It is commonly accompanied by other substance abuse disorders (most commonly nicotine), as well as anxiety and mood disorders, and antisocial personality disorder. Alcoholism often goes unrecognized in a clinical or primary health care setting, however there are several brief screening instruments available that will quickly identify problem drinking.

Alcohol abuse and dependency can be successfully treated with intervention by primary care physicians. While alcoholism,  dependency, is a lifelong disease many patients are able to successfully maintain their sobriety without relapse. Alcoholism is treated with a wide array of psychosocial methods, often with newly developed pharmacotherapies that decreases the risk of relapse.

The Dangers of Misusing Alcohol

The misuse of alcohol is associated with a considerable morbidity and mortality rate, studies show that there are nearly 100,000 deaths annually. Alcohol abuse is also commonly associated with social and legal problems, acts of violence, and accidents. Alcoholism is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the general population, with 8 to 14 percent of the population experiencing alcohol dependence throughout their lifetime, suffering from an severe form of alcoholism. There is a two to one ratio of alcohol dependence to alcohol abuse. Men are more commonly at risk, however studies show more women with alcoholism. These studies also show the female to male ratio for alcohol dependence is one to two. Typically, serious drinking starts in adolescence years; approximately 40 percent of alcoholics begin showing their first symptoms between 15 and 19 years of age.

IDENTIFYING PROBLEM DRINKERS

Alcoholism often goes undiagnosed. Less than 50 percent of health care providers will screen for alcohol consumption. Patients may also withhold information because of shame or fear of stigmatization associated with alcoholism. This often leads to misdiagnosis in patients.

To identify problem drinker there are several brief, easy to use and score, screening instruments.  The AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) is known to be the most accurate test for identifying problem drinking and is used by the NIAAA in the community for National Alcohol Screening Day. A shorter screening instrument is the Quantity/Frequency Questionnaire which was created by the NIAAA. By identifying problem drinkers this disease can be further assessed, helping them to recovery and successfully maintain their sobriety n their day to day life.

Treatment

The treatment an individual receives for a drinking problem depends on its severity and their personal needs.

Problem drinkers often benefit greatly from an brief intervention. This is a short-term counseling strategy based on motivational enhancement therapy that is focused on changing patient behavior and increasing patient compliance through therapy.

Treatment for an alcohol abuse problem or dependency holds great hurdles to overcome and life long maintenance. Treatment requires an inpatient or outpatient program depending on the severity of the patients alcohol problem. The first step to more treatment programs is detoxification, which allows the body to be cleansed of the chemicals and toxins related to alcohol abuse. Pharmacological therapy is often require to ease symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings. Cognitive behavior therapy will help the patient to recognize the dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors and actions associated with alcohol and change them to ones which promote sobriety. Motivation enhancement therapy is used to motivate patients to use their own resources to change their behavior.  Typically treatment programs will follow a 12-step approach, allowing patients to be treated for all aspects of their addiction and develop coping skills needed to maintain their sobriety within their day to day life.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and 12-Step Facilitation Therapy

AA and similar self-help groups use the 12 step approach that most alcoholics should work through during recovery. These are free programs that offer support, understanding and guidance to those in recovery. After completing a treatment program, patients are recommended to take part in self help groups to aid in the maintenance of their alcohol abuse problem or dependency.