Alcoholism Research Paper

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Alcohol has long been known as an enormous social problem and health problem, and according to statistical data, there are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States. Alcohol is the number one drug problem in the U.S. And an estimated three quarters of all adults consume alcohol at some level, and 6% of those are alcoholics (Mogul, Google Feedback, 2011). Moreover, more than thirty percent of Americans have had problems due to their consumption of alcohol; in a survey conducted by the journal General Psychiatry, 17.8% indicate they abuse alcohol and 12.5% believe they are alcohol dependent (Reinberg, 2007). This paper delves into the issue of alcoholism, the ramifications of those caught in the addiction, what remedies there may be and other issues related to alcoholism.

Childhood Experiences That Contribute to People Becoming Alcoholics

According to a recent article in Medline Plus (a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health) there is a link between those under treatment for alcoholism and experiences involving childhood trauma. The Medline Plus article received information from the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. In the study referenced by Medline Plus, 196 men and women who were undergoing treatment -- which included detoxification -- for alcohol dependence provided some very interesting and relevant findings to the researchers.

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It was revealed that these many of these 196 patients treated for alcoholism were "likely" to have had one or more experiences with "abuse or neglect" (Preidt, 2012). One form of abuse, sexual abuse, was linked with an "…increased likelihood of anxiety disorders" in addition to the problem of alcoholism. Moreover, Preidt reports that when a person suffers anxiety disorders and alcoholism, it increases the possibility that the patient will also suffer from depression (Preidt, p. 1).

TOPIC: Research Paper on Alcoholism Alcohol Has Long Been Known as Assignment

In addition to the possibility of depression and anxiety disorders, alcoholics that went through "childhood physical abuse" are more apt to try suicide, Preidt explains (p. 1). Also, those alcoholics who were abused or neglected in more than one way -- for example being sexually and psychologically abused (being told "you're no good" or "you'll never amount to anything" are typical of the kinds of psychological abuse some children are subjected to) -- are particularly at risk for developing a "psychiatric disorder or attempting suicide" (Preidt, p. 1).

Preidt references an important study by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism coordinated with the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- led by the clinical director of both institutes, Markus Heilig -- that reported startling rates of abuse that alcoholics had been subjected to as children. Some 24% of the male alcoholics and 33% of the female alcoholics studied had been abused physically during their childhood (Preidt, p. 1). Twelve percent of males and 49% of females in the study had been sexually abused in childhood.

And Heilig's report shows that 5% of males and 23% of females had been exposed to both physical and sexual abuse in their childhood (Preidt, p. 1).

Who Is at Risk for Alcoholism?

A peer-reviewed research article in the journal Alcohol Research & Health reports that there are biological "underpinnings" that lead to dependence on alcohol (Foroud, et al., 2010, p. 64). The research is "conclusive" that genetic factors account for "50 to 60% of the variance in risk for developing alcoholism," Foroud and colleagues explain. The research used for the article was gleaned from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Before launching into the genetics-related material, the authors reference a World Health Organization (WHO) report that estimates alcohol abuse results in the deaths of 1.8 million people worldwide annually; those 1.8 million alcohol-related deaths add up to 3.2% of all deaths in the world, Foroud explains (64). Moreover, the WHO report reflects that 58.3 million years of human productivity are lost to alcoholism each year.

Meanwhile, the studies referenced by Foroud include empirical research into twins, to verify that alcoholism and genetics / DNA have a linkage. The studies into twins was interesting, and showed that monozygotic twins, who have "identical genetic material" (genomes) have a "higher concordance rate for alcohol dependence" than dizygotic twins; dizygotic twins only share half of their genome (Foroud, 65). In other words, in a monozygotic twin setting, if one twin becomes an alcoholic, the other twin is likely to succumb to the same problem.

The Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), referenced by Foroud, performed research -- and created a database -- that showed these links with alcoholism: a) several chromosomal regions in participants were identified as "possibly containing one or more genes contributing to alcohol dependence"; b) certain clinical characteristics (known as phenotypes) like smoking, depression, suicidal behavior, conduct disorder were found to be consistent with alcoholism; and c) neurobiological endophenotypes like "event-related potentials and brain oscillations" were found when delving into the alcoholic's electrophysiological activity (Foroud, 66). As helpful -- albeit esoteric -- as that data was, scientists are still challenged to locate the specific genes that contribute to these phenotypes. Why? Because the phenotypes that need to be referenced lie in a region that "often encompassed" up to 30 million base pairs (Foroud, 66).

Using animals in alcohol research has been "invaluable" in terms of learning how alcohol exerts its effects biologically, Foroud explains on page 70. For example, studies using animals have shown that the pharmacology of alcohol involves "nearly all" major neurotransmitter targets including "the glutamate/NMDA, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and cannaboid receptor systems" (Foroud, 70). What does that mean for science in terms of understanding how and why people become alcoholics? Thanks to the animals used in research, scientists are able to understand the "highly complex mechanisms" that drive the diverse effects of alcohol; animal research has also contributed to an understanding of the various individual differences in terms of each person's sensitivity to the effects of alcohol (Foroud, 70).

Beyond the science that is involved in studies about alcoholism -- DNA, genetics, and phenotypes -- the authors point out that environmental factors also play a significant role in terms of the risk of alcohol dependence. Family influences (above and beyond genetics), peer group influences, and other social influences -- along with specific personality types or psychiatric factors -- have an impact on a person's potential for becoming dependent on alcohol, Foroud concludes (71).

Advances in Alcoholism Treatment

Another article in the peer-reviewed journal Alcohol Research & Health reviews the various treatments for alcoholism, beginning with the formula established by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith in 1935 when the pair founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The Wilson-Smith duo launched the 12 Step solution, based on the premise that "turning one's life and will over to a personally meaningful 'higher power' is the key to recovery" (Huebner, et al., 2011, p. 295).

The Hazelden Foundation used the basic AA steps and developed an individualized plan for treatment that embraced the idea of involving the family in a "28-day inpatient setting" (Huebner, 295). This strategy approached the challenge with two beliefs: a) alcoholism is indeed a disease and not a symptom of "an underlying disorder" and that alcoholism should be treated as a primary condition; and b ) the effects on the individual of alcohol dependence are mental, spiritual, and physical, and that treatment should incorporate all three aspects (Huebner, 295). The authors report (298) that while there are proven drug-related therapies available, and there are successful behavioral treatments offered under the care of psychologists, there are millions of Americans that are achieving much-needed recovery from alcohol dependency through "mutual-help groups (MHGs)" like Alcoholics Anonymous, Huebner reports (298). In fact MHGs are the "most commonly sought after source of help" for those with alcohol dependency, Huebner continues.

But notwithstanding a range of treatments that bring various degrees of sobriety to individuals, the authors conclude that "no single treatment"… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Alcoholism" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Alcoholism.  (2012, May 23).  Retrieved December 2, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Alcoholism."  23 May 2012.  Web.  2 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Alcoholism."  May 23, 2012.  Accessed December 2, 2021.