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Husband has been told he's alcoholic.

Byline: JAYNE,

QMY husband has been told by his GP that he has alcohol dependence. Yet he denies this and claims he is just a heavy drinker, like the rest of his family. What's the dif ference between someone who drinks heavily and someone who has alcohol dependence? Is being alco hol dependent the same as being an alcoholic?

JAYNE, Stourbridge

A YOU raise some important questions about how we diagnose alcohol dependence, Jayne.

Alcohol Dependence Syndrome was first described by a psychiatrist, Dr Griffith Edwards, in 1986.

He found that patients who were addicted to alcohol showed a number of recognisa ble characteristics. It is these that differen tiate between someone who is merely a heavy drinker and someone who is addicted to alcohol.

The seven characteristics are:

TOLERANCE: Tolerance occurs when regular drinking results in an increased amount of alcohol being required to have the same intoxicating or relaxing effect. It starts imperceptibly but usually results in an increase in number of drinks of the same alcohol strength (such as beer or wine) before moving to drinks of higher alcohol strength (such as strong lager or spirits). In the later stages of addiction to alcohol, tolerance diminishes, particularly in association with alcohol-induced liver disease.

WITHDRAWALS: When someone starts becoming addicted to alcohol they experience a withdrawal reac tion in response to not drinking. This consists of tremors (shakes) of the arms, retching, hot and cold flushes, sweating and mood distur bance such as anxiety and irri tability. Severe withdrawals can induce an epilep tic fit.

RELIEF DRINKING: The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are relieved by drink ing.

CRAVING AND COMPULSION TO DRINK: This is the psychological desire for alcohol. It occurs principally in association with withdrawals and usually leads to relief drinking.

PRIMACY OF DRINKING OVER OTHER ACTIVITIES: When someone is becoming addicted to alcohol they put alcohol before everything else in their life and will often make excuses not to do things in order to drink.

NARROWING OF THE DRINKING REPERTOIRE: As someone becomes addicted to alcohol they tend to stick to the same drinks each time and not drink a range of alcoholic drinks. They will drink in the same way regardless of what situation they are in and they also tend to drink in the same place (often at home). They may drink secretly and drink in order to keep blood alcohol levels high.

REINSTATEMENT AFTER ABSTI NENCE: Most alcoholics will have tried to give up alcohol for a period of time. Of those who do, all will have resumed uncontrolled drinking even after a pro longed period of abstinence when they attempt social drinking.

If you have a question about health and wellbeing, write to Mercury Medic, Sunday Mercury, Weaman Street, Birmingham B4 6AY, or e-mail Husband has been told he's a lcoholic
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2006
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