Addiction to Alcohol and Cigarettes – Is it a Mental Illness?

15 November 2011 10:04 pm - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


One would be surprised if it were stated that addiction to alcohol and cigarettes can be considered as a mental illness. We see people who consume alcohol daily in public and some who do it on the sly. It is the same with cigarettes. There are   social drinkers. It is only a handful who understand the long term consequences of such addictions and refrain from them altogether. The main reason is that Addiction to Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs like heroin and Ganja stems from mental stress which may lead to mental illness.
It is common to take medication for illness and from time immemorial people have got used to consuming alcohol for various illnesses as well. But alcohol cannot be considered as medicine. Alcohol consumption is considered deadly in Medical terms. This is an illness which is inherited and runs in families. If you are one of them who process the gene by the courtsey of inheritance then the way you react to alcohol is very different to others. As one would not know if you have the gene one could sought to symptoms which one experience subsequent to consumption of alcohol. Let’s look at some of these.
The symptoms start to surface after the first consumption. The nerves are stimulated and the craving for more and more alcohol /cigarettes/drugs begins. The inability to control the urge is the mental illness.
These symptoms vary from person to person. If it is a first time drinker, he or she will be impatient until the next opportunity to drink, This impatience causes them to plot and find ways and means of getting another drink ( getting to together with friends in secret) there are also those who will stay in a smoke zone just to inhale the fumes. Such behavior can be considered as symptoms.  The symptoms of long term alcohol addicts and drug addicts are different from the above. They have strong cravings and complain of body aches and pains if they refrain from alcohol. The symptoms can include loss of appetite, loss of sleep, tremors in hands and feet. These symptoms interfere with their daily routine. This is known as Alcohol Dependency syndrome.
Alcohol causes changes in the body inner systems which manifests externally as symptoms. Blood and alcohol concentration levels of an alcohol addict is higher. Thus this contributes to differences in the functions of the brain and the body. The blood and alcohol concentration levels of a person who consumes alcohol daily are maintained at these higher levels to which the body gets adapted. Refraining from alcohol for a day or few hours causes the blood alcohol concentration level to decrease. This leads to craving for more alcohol at frequent intervals and such persons conveniently make it an excuse to drink in order to do any work. They feel that alcohol enables them to work and most go to extremes to prove this point.
Alcohol addiction is a social problem.  It can be considered as a genetic illness as well. However the complications occurring due to it can be prevented by certain therapeutic interventions. The mental aspect of this illness can be controlled. Remedial action has to be taken for the trauma, downfall of the family which arises in families of such people. For example if we look  at  a person who has been addicted to alcohol or drugs for the last 10 years starting the addiction at  17 years, such a person has to seek medical attention.  This addiction can cause much trauma to his family and friends. Medical Science has remedies for such people and that is why it is important for them to consult a psychiatrist in this regard.
 When it comes to treating an alcohol addicted his/her cooperation is vital because initial treatment has to commence as a inward patient in a hospital which is to detoxify the patient with medication. The second step is aversion therapy . A drug which enables the alcohol craving to decrease is introduced. A side effect of this is that it stimulates body function. The patients gains a healthy appetite and his feeling of laziness disappears.  If the patient takes continuous treatment for at least three months after this initial therapy he can come back to normal.
There are some minor treatment side effects experienced by some patients like dizziness and nausea, but these side effects usually disappear  in a couple of hours or a day. These minor side effects should not become a barrier for anyone to seek treatment which once done  and continued would ensure that person a lifetime of  happiness .
Some steps can be taken to help reluctant alcohol dependant patients to seek medical treatment. The patient has to be mentally prepared before the visit. It has to be emphasized how important he or she is to the family and the benefits of overcoming this problem which will not only solve the person’s problem but the entire families trauma, recover from downfall etc. Once the patient is taken to the doctor, the doctor will be able to start the relevant treatment. A patient with loss of appetite will regain his appetite and this alone can stimulate him to continue with the treatment.
Treatment for the above can be sought on Fridays at the clinic in Peradeniya Hospital. The clinic commences at 8.00a.m. Anyone who finds it hard to access the above should meet a Psychiatrist from any of the hospitals in the country and take treatment.

  Comments - 3

  • Nuzrath Anver Tuesday, 22 November 2011 12:30 PM

    Every body know that Road Motor Vehicles and Customs Department are the most corrupt government departments in the country. Government should do some thing about it.

    Saman Saturday, 19 November 2011 10:08 PM

    Alcohol is the nasty drug sold with a licensed label and not considered as a disaster. It is a disaster to families, neighbors,society and the country. But the production is bosted and a large volume is imported. No body cares ?
    Smoking has been a treat to health. But still people smoke even in public places and offices. The next door person is not in a position to protect himself from smoke. Where is the way have a smoke free world.

    NISHTHAR IDROOS Wednesday, 16 November 2011 03:18 AM

    For some reason best known to the medical fraternity and the tobacco industry the addiction element to cigarettes and alcohol has been underplayed for a considerably long period. It’s no longer a debatable or nebulous issue. Overwhelming research findings point out to one thing smoking in particular is addictive and a major killer. No society with scruples can make revenue from a source that contributes to the deaths of thousands if not millions. I haven’t said anything about passive smoking which endangers all and sundry. When will they understand, perhaps they never will.

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