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Alcoholism is a chronic disease. The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems.
Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime and it usually follows a predictable course and it has symptoms. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person’s genes and by his or her lifestyle. Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes that put people at risk for alcoholism. Friends, the amount of stress in life, and how readily alcohol is available are the factors that may increase the risk for alcoholism.
Just because alcoholism tends to run in families does not mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. In the same way, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol.
Alcoholism cannot be cured easily. Even if an alcoholic has not been drinking for a long time, he or she can still suffer a relapse. To guard against a relapse, an alcoholic must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.
Alcoholism can be treated. Alcoholism treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. Most alcoholics need help to recover from their disease. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.