The word alcohol comes from the Arabic “Al Kohl,” which means “the essence.” Alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a primary, chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal disease.
In 1956 the American Medical Association decided that alcoholism is a disease, however more than 30 years later this is still debated in certain circles. Besides the medical opinion, there are many others (e.g., legal, sociological, religious) which derive from any number of social pressures. For example, the Supreme Court recently decided that the Veteran’s Administration could consider alcoholism an individual choice rather than a disease. This decision, in many peoples’ opinion, was made because of the financial implication related to “Service-connected Disability” payments rather than the merits, or lack thereof, of alcoholism as a disease. This in only one example of of the many biased opinions (including the medical one) on whether or not alcoholism is a disease.
Mr. Wakeel Murad is Clinical Addiction Counselor and he has over 20 years of counseling experience helping individuals and their families handle various addictions and other serious mental health issues. These conditions can also be co-occurring and significantly impair an individual’s life as well as those around them.
Editor: Samreen Masud
Alcoholism compared to diabetes
There is an abundance of information. Alcoholism is often compared to diabetes. Most people are able to eat carbohydrates and metabolize them without difficulty; however this is not the case with people who have diabetes mellitus. Many years ago, we had no idea why people with diabetes got into metabolic difficulty but now we know that it is because of an intrinsic lack of insulin and that this is genetically determined. There is a list of progressive symptoms related to diabetes: polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss, blurred vision, and nausea and vomiting are seen acutely. If the disease goes on untreated, then there is end organ failure disease goes on untreated, then there is end organ failure and patients
with diabetes develop failure of their vision and kidneys as well as significant cardiovascular disease with heart attack and stroke. How does one treat this problem? The patient needs insulin and a very controlled lifestyle diet, exercise and very special attention to one’s habits. This will at least slow down the progression of the disease.
The same concepts of “disease” apply to alcoholism, and the progression of the disease was defined by Jellinek and is shown on the attached was defined by Jellinek and is shown on the attached Jellinek chart. Alcoholism is a progressive and terminal disease if no intervention occurs.