Archive for January, 2011

Alcohol addiction is a disease, comment

January 10, 2011

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused psychoactive drug in the United States. Of those seeking treatment 50% will relapse in the first few months of therapy. Everyone around these patients is effected by this disease. Nursing is on the forefront of the battle these individuals undertake. Alcohol use is broken down into two categories abuse and dependence. Alcohol abuse is characterized as a pattern of use leading to one or more manifestations in a period of a year such as a failure to fulfill major roles or obligations at work, school or home. Recurrent alcohol related legal problems or being in physically hazardous situations and continued use despite problems with relationships caused by or exacerbated by alcohol. Alcohol dependence is a pattern of three or more manifestations in a year such as having a tolerance to alcohol, showing signs of withdrawal, consuming larger amounts or over longer periods than had intended. Continued use of alcohol despite desire or failed attempts to cut down consumption. Drinking and recovering from use takes up more and more time. Continued use despite knowing it is doing damage physically or psychologically, as well as those listed above for abuse. Alcohol not only effects those who are abusing or dependent on the drug, but everyone around them. As a child I remember the late night phone call my mother received that her father, only 49 years old, had passed away after having too much to drink, vomited and aspirated his stomach contents. He was an abuser, a weekend social drinker whose life alcohol had very little impact on until that night, then it had the ultimate impact. A patient I took care of many years ago had a similar experience, he was a young man in his early 30’s, he too aspirated after vomiting, he survived this initially only to be left with damage to his brain from a lack of oxygen. He would live the rest of his life in a coma like state, with a grieving wife and child. Alcohol is a treatable disease, when a patient comes to a hospital or clinic, they have chosen to undertake the battle of their lives. They are not able to do this alone, the attitudes of family and nurses as well as others they may come into contact with are crucial. A compassionate nurse can change the life of a patient, as well as an unsympathetic nurse whose attitude may be “they did this to themselves.” Alcohol dependence or abuse should be seen for what it is a real disease that needs real treatment. These patients need all the support they can get from those around them, and education on the subject is paramount to recognizing the signs and symptoms that manifest. Education for healthcare workers so they understand these patients, as well as how to successfully treat them with medications, together with the patient’s desire to enter therapy will hopefully change that 50% to 25% or better 0% relapse in first few months.

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