Questions and Answers About Addiction

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease. People who have the disease have lost control over their drinking and are not able to stop without help. They also lose control over how they act when they are drunk.

How does alcoholism start?

Doctors don't know all the reasons why people become alcoholics. Some start out drinking a little bit and end up hooked on alcohol. A person might drink to forget problems or to calm nerves, but then they end up needing alcohol to feel normal. Once a person loses control over drinking, he or she needs help to stop drinking.

If the alcoholic is sick why doesn't he or she just go to the hospital?

At first, the alcoholic is not aware that he or she is ill. Even when the alcoholic becomes aware that something is wrong, he or she may not believe that alcohol is the problem. An alcoholic might keep blaming things on other people, or might blame their job, or the house, or whatever. But, really, it's the alcohol that's the biggest problem.

Is there an "average" alcoholic?

No. There is no such person as the average alcoholic. Alcoholics can be young, old, rich, poor, male, or female.

What is the cure for alcoholism?

There is no cure for alcoholism except stopping the disease process by stopping the drinking. People with alcoholism who have completely stopped drinking are called "recovering alcoholics". Recovering alcoholics can lead healthy, happy, productive lives.

Can family members make an alcoholic stop drinking?

No. It is important to know that an alcoholic needs help to stop drinking, but no one can be forced to accept the help, no matter how hard you try or what you do. It is also important to know that family members by themselves cannot provide the help that an alcoholic needs. An alcoholic needs the help of people trained to treat the disease.

How many children in the United States have at least one alcoholic parent?

About eleven million children in our country are growing up with at least one alcoholic parent. There are probably a few in your class right now. And remember, some adults grew up with alcoholic parents too.

I know I can't make my alcoholic parent stop drinking, so what can I do to make myself feel better?

Talk to someone you trust about the problem. Talk to a teacher, a Scout leader, a coach, a school counselor. Also, there is a group for kids who have alcoholic parents called "Alateen". Alateen has meetings, like a club, and the kids share tips on how to make life easier. You can look for the phone number of Alateen in the phone book or call directory assistance for the number of Alateen. Someone at Al-Anon or the Alcoholics Anonymous answer line can probably tell you how to find the meetings too. Ask at school if there are any Alateen groups or school-sponsored support groups. If you have access to the Internet, search "Alateen" together with the name of your county.