Alcoholism : diagnosis and management

Alcoholism : diagnosis and management

Alcoholism is a condition when a person have signs of physical addiction to alcohol and continues to drink , despite problems with physical and psychological health. Alcohol abuse is when person’s drinking habits leads to problems, but not physical addiction.

These problems can lead to a number of harmful physical, psychological and socioeconomic effects such as alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis of the liver, inability to work and socialize and destructive behaviors(violence and vandalism).

Alcoholism is not a gender related disease.


People who have alcoholism or alcohol abuse often:

  • Continue to drink, even after knowing the ill effects of drinking
  • Drink alone
  • Become hostile when asked about drinking
  • Unable to control drinking
  • Make excuses to drink
  • Miss work or school, or have a decrease in performance because of drinking
  • Stop taking part in activities because of alcohol
  • Need to consume alcohol on most days to get through the day
  • Become violent if somebody tries to stop them to drink

In addition, physical problems also develops. Alcoholics suffer from disturbing memory lapses called blackouts. Alcoholics eat poorly because their irritated liver and inflamed digestive systems leads to heart burns and nausea.

  • The warning signs are “slurred speech, alcohol odour”.
  • “Dry drunk syndrome” is a syndrome characterized by short temper, irritability and restlessness.


The medical professional will perform a physical examination and ask questions about person’s medical and family history, including use of alcohol.

Tests to rule out, if a person is alcoholic or not:

• Blood alcohol level
• Complete blood count
• Liver function test
• Magnesium blood test


Treating alcoholism depends on how much a person drinks. Further treatment options are:

  • Detoxification – It involves a nurse or doctor supporting the person to safely give up drinking. It can be done by helping the person to slowly reduce the alcohol intake over time or by medications. Thus reducing the withdrawal symptoms
  • Counseling – It includes self-help groups and talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medication – There are two main types of medicines to facilitate a person to stop drinking. The first is to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and is generally given in tapering doses over a short period of time.

The most common medicine that’s used in this way is called chlodiazapoxide (Librium). There is another medication to reduce any urge that one may have to drink. The most common medications used for this are acamprosate and naltrexone; these medicines are given at a fixed dose and you’ll usually be on them for 6-12 months.