Alcoholism has been classified as a disease by the Joint Committee to Study the Definition and Criteria for the Diagnosis of Alcoholism. The term alcoholism has been used over the years for a conglomeration of symptoms and behaviors in an imprecise manner. It has been a term which is poorly understood, vague and often used with moral overtones (Morse & Flavin, 1994, p. 31). The alcoholic, having a disease, should not be excused from his or her behavior, or the consequences of imprudent actions. For the alcoholic, drinking alcohol is still a decision he or she is able to control.
The revised definition of alcoholism is:
a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic. (Morse & Flavin, 1994, p. 31-32).
The term primary means that alcoholism is not a symptom of another underlying disease. Alcoholism is a disease in and of itself. The addiction is not caused by any other hidden disease. As a disease, alcoholism is involuntary. In other words, a person does not try to become an alcoholic. The alcoholic's behavior may contribute to the disease, but the person does not choose to become dependent on alcohol. The disease is made up of a set of symptoms which are not present in the non-alcoholic. This does not excuse the alcoholic from the consequences of his or her actions, both legal and social. The alcoholic is able to control his or her behavior just as a diabetic is able to control his or her ingestion of sugar and must to control the progression of the disease.
Alcoholism, if undetected and uncontrolled, is progressive and can be fatal. The disea...