In the last few years of the 19th century and the first few of the 20th century, society viewed addicts as committing a moral wrong and are often shunned as bad people or sinners. A lot of physicians, because of this, fought to change the misconceptions of society to help addicts instead of shaming and punishing them.
- In 1930, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was started and a publication by the noted psychiatrist and the Director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Yale Medical School E.M. Jellinek started a new definition to alcoholism.
- The new definition revealed that alcoholism is a medical disease.
- Jellinek became the father of the disease theory model of alcoholism.
According to Jellinek, the theory carried stages that drinkers pass through before becoming alcoholics and addicts. These are:
The Pre-Alcoholic Phase:
The phase is characterized by drinking socially. Some drinkers can develop a tolerance for the substance and begin to drink to feel better or to relieve stress.
The Prodromal Phase Or Early-Alcoholic Stage:
Blackouts start to happen and the drinker will begin the sessions secretly or all by himself. The person thinks a lot about alcohol and the tolerance progresses.
The Crucial Phase:
The cycle of drinking that cannot be controlled anymore, often during inappropriate times. Problems start to manifest in the drinker’s daily life as well as in his relationships. Also, physical changes in the brain and body become evident.
The Chronic phase:
The phase is primarily characterized by drinking alcohol daily. Drinking becomes the main focus of the drinker’s life. The drinker starts to experience cravings, more health problems, abuse issues, and withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol functions as a depressant on your central nervous system.
As the alcohol molecules are particularly small, it affects several parts of your brain and body altogether. Alcohol tends to change your brain chemistry at first increasing the neurotransmitters driving the pleasure centers of the brain, but with chronic abuse, it deteriorates the pleasure centers. As alcohol tolerance increases, you could be taking in increasing amounts of alcohol to gain the full effects of previous uses further damaging your body and brain.
As society begins to understand that alcoholism is a medical disease, not a mere deviant behavior, medical treatment becomes more accessible.
A lot of medical facilities and insurance carriers now recognize addiction as a malady requiring treatment. The term disease also implies chronic illness while giving hope for treatment. The term also implies that alcoholism, as with other diseases, can lead to a relapse that you should not be ashamed of.
The New York Times even revealed that 80-90% of those getting treatment for dependency can relapse at a certain point. Also, the initial disease model reveals that alcoholism is irreversible and incurable and that abstinence is the only answer to recovery.
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