No cure exists for alcoholism. Considered an alcohol-use disorder, it is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled dependence on alcohol.
"The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s 2018 study estimated 5.8 percent or 14.4 million adults 18 and older had a diagnosed alcohol use disorder — 9.3 million men and 5.3 million women," said Patricia Z. Munson, MA, a retired executive director who managed an alcohol and substance abuse prevention and intervention agency for 30 years.
"Every member of the family unit is affected by this and needs treatment on how to better deal with the alcoholic as well as learning how to deal with their emotions," Munson said.
To detect an alcoholic, look for behaviors.
"My father was an alcoholic," said Jennifer Schmitz, the business development director for Palm Point Behavioral Health. "He drank openly at home and we could see the change in his mood. As far as detecting being an alcoholic, look for life changes, not going to work, becoming depressed, changes in mood, changes in routine and loss of desire of activities."
As the disease develops, there are changes to the brain. There are physical and psychological effects. These include withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, and increased tolerance for more alcohol to make the person feel as they did when they first started drinking, spending more time drinking or making their schedule revolve around drinking, according to Munson.
"You can’t get anybody to seek help unless they are ready," added Schmitz. "I know that like forever. They have to be ready. Some people don’t have an addiction but can turn to addiction if something happens in their life like losing a loved one, a spouse or a child — something considered traumatic or have PTSD from war."
If there isn’t an intervention or realization that help is needed, the person can continue drinking.
"This leads to increasing their tolerance and leading to more physical and psychological change," Munson said. "As the drinking continues, physical damage to the liver, heart, blood and other organs will increase and may not be reversible. This makes the road to recovery longer and harder."
Brevard County offers help for alcoholics. The National Alliance on Mental Illness deals with addiction and recovery, offering support groups at Palm Point. More help is found locally through Alcoholics Anonymous, Circles of Care and others.