A recent study showed that millions of Americans are turning to alcohol and drugs to relieve the discomfort of their stress-filled lives. However, like stress itself, these “pain-killers” are far from being considered a new approach. In our society alcohol is the most widely used drug today, but certainly not the only one.

For the majority of users alcohol seems to be a relatively safe relaxant, but not for all. In fact, for that small group who cannot control their drinking; the price of alcohol abuse is enormous. The pain that it may relieves is nothing compared to the pain it causes them as they slowly become addicted to alcohol. Sooner or later alcohol will weaken and destroy those components of the self that give life meaning.

No one really knows how long man has used alcoholic beverage as part of his social activities, What is known, however, is that booze, or alcohol was in use many thousands of years before the World Health Organization declared alcohol a habit forming and addicting drug.

For example, neolithic man discovered and used beer and berry wine since about 6400 BC; There are those who have suggested that the use of some form of alcoholic beverage go as far back as 300 or 400 BC. A by product of honey called mead are said to be the oldest of all alcoholic beverages known to man. It is further suggested that mead first appeared during the paleolithic age. Nevertheless, it has been established that beer drinking by Native-Americans was well on its way when Columbus reached these shores.

Fruits and cereal grains are the most common products that are fermented to produce alcoholic beverages in this culture. Other cultures commonly use plants as the base for fermentation of alcoholic beverages. During his expedition to Mexico in 1518, Cortez commented approvingly on the locally distilled beverage called pulque. Pulque is made from cactus and has an alcoholic content of about 6{0f0fc6bf5bd959fc253a0668ee6b669dcca87a64289522d38fccac0cb86058d7}. Mead has an alcoholic content of approximately 10-12{0f0fc6bf5bd959fc253a0668ee6b669dcca87a64289522d38fccac0cb86058d7} and is believed to be presently available in some culture. The traditional rice wine, of the Far East, called sake is well-known to many Americans, especially servicemen of World War ll. The alcoholic content of sake is said to be from 12-18{0f0fc6bf5bd959fc253a0668ee6b669dcca87a64289522d38fccac0cb86058d7}.

A nineteenth century Swedish physician is credited with being the first to use the term “alcoholism” Ancient Romans were the first to recognize the pattern of drinking between those who drank to excess by choice and those who could not control their drinking. Several centuries later, the English language distinguished the difference between drunkenness and addition to alcohol.

In 1784, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the founder of American psychiatry and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, described habitual drinking as an involuntary condition, a disease caused by “spirituous liquors.” However, the disease concept was eclipsed by the Puritan belief in America until the failure of prohibition. Shortly before the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which outlawed the sale and manufacture of alcohol, the first edition of the American Standard Classified Nomenclature of Disease was published. It listed both alcohol addition and alcoholism as an illness. A few years later Alcoholic Anonymous was founded and also embraced the disease concept.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine defined alcoholism in this manner; Alcoholism is primary a chronic disease with genetic, psychological and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, and the use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, the most notably denial.

Generally speaking, the individual is considered an alcoholic when his drinking become unmanageable and causes trouble in the drinker’s personal, professional, family, and social life. Also, the individual is considered addicted to alcohol if they are unable to predict when they will stop, or how much they will drink, or what the results of their drinking will be.

As a nation we are materially rich and technologically brilliant. We are, also, a nation of drug users. In homes across America we will find medicine cabinets with large quantities of drugs both over the counter and those prescribed by physicians. The mass media will call into action its vast arsenal of resources to inform the public of the danger of cocaine, heroin, and crack-cocaine. Yet, the same mass media seems impotent when it comes to educating the public on the danger of alcohol abuse. It appears that alcohol, the drug that is used more blatantly than any other drug in man’s history, is relegated to the back burner

Every indicators shows that among our youth, especially college students, the switch is from a variety of unfamiliar and esoteric drugs to the drug commonly found in the most respectable and law abiding homes. In this society we use alcohol for a variety of reasons; to be sociable, to be accepted, to relax, to gain courage, to improve self-esteem, and yes, to add romance to our lives. And, too often, for many of us alcohol is used to escape from depression, fears, anxiety, and other inadequacies real or imagined. it is for these and other reasons the abuse of alcohol is on the rise.

It is estimated that 18.5 million American exhibit signs of alcoholism or alcohol dependence. while another 7.2 million shows persistent patterns of drinking behaviors associated with impaired health and social functioning. A report completed in 2000 indicated that alcoholism and alcohol-related problems cost the nation an estimated $276 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures, crime, motor vehicle accidents and other related cost.

In America, alcohol-related problem strikes one family in every three. Fetal alcohol Syndrome is one of the leading causes of birth defects and mental retardation. One third of all hospitalized patients are found to have some form of alcohol-related problem. Alcohol is closely linked to suicide. Among the causes of death in identified alcoholics, 20{0f0fc6bf5bd959fc253a0668ee6b669dcca87a64289522d38fccac0cb86058d7} are due to suicide another 22{0f0fc6bf5bd959fc253a0668ee6b669dcca87a64289522d38fccac0cb86058d7} are alcohol-dependent. A recent study indicated that more than half of all inmates convicted of violent crimes had used alcohol just prior to the offense.

Alcoholism is a disease that directly affects those close to the alcoholic, especially family members. Often the affected family members need appropriate help to recover as well as the alcoholic himself. Most alcoholism treatment programs include a family component with referrals to self-help and support groups. One out of five children in America lived with an alcoholic while growing up. One out of every ten adult in America had been married to or shared a close relationship with an alcoholic or problem drinker. Women are more exposed more often to alcoholism in the family than men. Women are more likely than men to have been in a marriage with an alcoholic.

Like other diseases, alcoholism can be overcome with proper treatment, prevention, and more research. Educating the public about the disease of alcoholism is the first line of defense. Acute awareness and understanding of the early signs of problem drinking is vital. Recognizing that alcohol is a drug and it use or abuse includes certain risks are critical to personal prevention. Other preventive measures are, avoiding high-risk drinking, know your family’s history with alcohol, and know your own history with alcohol use.