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Alcoholism Essay, Research Paper


By Andrew Dana Allen

“What is alcoholism?” Alcoholism itself is a chronic illness that is characterized by the habitual consumption of alcohol to a degree that interferes with physical, mental and social health. Alcohol is a depressant that will release feelings of guilt, anxiety and remorse if taken in heavy quantities. It will impair your motor skills slowing both your alertness and awareness that can lead to many accidents.

“What are the facts about alcoholism?” Recent studies have shown that 50 to 80% of all alcoholics have close relatives that are alcoholics as well. Because of this staggering figure researchers have begun to suspect that there may be a defect in a person’s genetic makeup that could cause alcoholism. In 1990 scientists finally found what they believe to be responsible for the inheritance of alcoholism in family lines. The defective gene is located on chromosome 11 and is called Dopamine. Dopamine is a receptor located in the pleasure center of the brain; people with fewer dopamine receptors are very likely to develop alcoholism. This defect has been noted in many people with a family history of alcoholism. Some other scientists have been skeptical of these findings, but we now have solid proof that a person is not always an alcoholic by choice. Predestined alcoholism has been haunting society for years but it is only recently being dealt with.

It is my belief however, that alcoholism is indeed heredity. The evidence that is provided is simply too substantial to ignore. Family history of alcoholism shows that throughout the generations there has been a steady pattern of alcoholics within families. With the new found information on dopamine and the possibilities that is has, society can no longer write off alcoholics as social misfits that make the choice to drink. It is tragic to think that a person’s destiny in life has already been planned due to a genetic defect.

“Just how big of a problem is this?” An estimated ten million Americans suffer from alcoholism, with 75% male and 25% being female. There are many signs that may lead to the development of an alcoholic. Some people will fill the need to drink for relief from a problem. Others having cravings for a drink, much like the dependency upon cigarettes. In the late stages of alcoholism people have been known to suffer from frequent blackouts.

“Can it start at an early age?” It is estimated that there are three million alcoholics between the ages of fourteen and seventeen today; this problem is continually growing and it has no intention of stopping. Not only is the drinking affecting the person, society must face it as well. An estimated forty to sixty billion dollars is spent annually due to medical care, car accidents, and alcohol related crimes.

“Where can people get help?” AA is a fellowship of men and women that gather daily to help each other maintain sobriety. Two men who began to help each other conquer their addictions started this foundation in 1935. Alcoholic’s Anonymous is located in one hundred thirty countries with over two million members worldwide.

Although these drugs and programs are extremely useful they do not always work. Disulfiram along with other anti-anxiety drugs are not guaranteed to work, and programs such as AA are wonderful resources to use but a person must kick the habit himself or herself, which sometimes proves to be impossible. Admitting that they have a problem and occasionally forcing themselves to go does not always work either.

“What are scientists doing to help the problem?” Scientists have discovered the gene that is linked to alcoholism (along with other mental diseases such as turret’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder) they may be able to pinpoint a cure. In today’s society drinking is becoming more and more prominent; hopefully a cure may be found to cure such an epidemic. Now that they know what causes alcoholism they may be able to curb the behavior that is being past on from generation to generation. Studies have shown that children of alcoholics are far more likely to develop mental disorders throughout their lifetime. These studies also indict that although one half of the children will grow out of these disabilities while the other half will develop more serious physiological disorders. It is also noteworthy that these children are four times more likely to become alcoholics then a person who lived a normal life would be. It should also be noted that their children would also face many emotional and physiological disorders during their childhood as well.

Although there is a large amount of evidence in favor of this genetic defect, people may drink heavily by their own choice. For example a person may be an alcoholic due to manic-depression. Liquor has been known to drown out feelings of despair and depression. For some it is simply an easy way out of reality.

“What do we do now?” Being that scientists have discovered that there is a gene linked with alcoholism they may now be able to determine a cure. Since there is still so much controversy over such a new subject, funding is unlikely, especially with new research studies coming out that will disprove the theories on dopamine in one way or another. However, now that evidence exists it will no longer be ignored. In previous years alcoholism was brushed aside, considered to be a private issue. It is obvious that a solution must be found to a problem that is being dealt with by people who simply do not have the ability to control their desire for alcohol consumption.

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