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Introduction to Psychology II

Ina M. Kamaityt?, Professor

12 December, 2001


Thousands of years ago people began to make alcohol for practical

reasons. Wine making began with the early Egyptians who found that grape

juise spoiled quickly, but that fermented juise or wine would keep without

spoiling. They also had problems with impure water, and the Egyptians

noticed that people did not sick ower wine, but they often became ill when

they drank inpure water. In later years, wine became inportant to the Roman

Catholic Church throughout Europe because wine was used to celebrate the

sacrament of the Mass. By the 1300’s, beer industry had emerged in Central

Europe. At this time, wine was also continuing to grow in popularity; many

brands named for the places in which they originated. At first alcohol was

desined for the practical reasons, its use changed. People began to

experiment with different types of alcohol. Alcohol became an integral part

of European culture. We need to understand the harmful effects of alcohol,

because it can be fatal.

"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

continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with

the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and

distortions in thinking, most notably denial."


Alcoholism is sometimes characterized by the following elements:

1. Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.

2. Loss of control: The frequent inability to stop drinking once a

person has begun.

3. Physical dependence: The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms, such as

nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped after

a period of heavy drinking. These symptoms are usually relieved by drinking

alcohol or by taking another sedative drug.

4. Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to

get "high.

"Most of the psychologists consider alcoholism as a progressive

disease, when naturally progressing has 3 stages that go one after another.

The transition between those stages is smooth and unnoticeable for a

person. That disease never appears suddenly. You can suddenly get flue,

appendicitis, gonorrhea, or any other disease, but not alcoholism.

First stage is always introduced by pleasant regular “cultural”

drinking that lasts from 1 to 10 years. People predisposed to alcoholism

cover that stage very quickly, sometimes in a several months. So a popular

concept of “cultural” drinking is far not perfect. All alcoholics began

“culturally”. Every person consuming regularly alcohol is in a risk of

becoming an alcoholic.

Only total sobriety (non-drinking) can stop this disease. But even if

a person after giving up drinking gets in use of alcohol just sometimes,

the disease will steadily progress. Any relapse not just throws the person

back, but makes alcohol abuse heavier and heavier.

First stage:

A person likes drinking, but doesn’t really know how to drink. Feeling

attraction to the alcohol drinks not to the point and without measure.

Being drunk can make some “bad” things. Psychologists call it “the loss of

situational and measure control”. The “health” in the morning is

satisfactory, no need in a hangover yet. Amnesias begin appearing. The

person is not a professional yet, but already a high-degree amateur. As a

rule nobody gives up drinking on that stage, as the overall health is still

good. First stage lasts for several years, the transition to the second

stage is almost unavoidable.

Second stage:

The “alcohol dependence syndrome” is added to the symptoms of the

first stage. In not severe cases an alcoholic can endure to the evening and

“improve” his health only after his work. The second stage of dependence

begins when an alcoholic can’t already wait till the evening and cures a

hangover at the midday. Later it happens earlier and earlier. Curing the

hangover early in the morning or at night means going on a binge. Problems

in the family and at work (if they’re not lost already) are inescapable.

Life goes down, becomes uncontrolled, but it’s too frightening for an

abuser to admit that. Alcohol takes the major place in the mind, life

becomes seeming useless without drinking. Family, children, job – all go to

the background. Some drink almost constantly, others do breaks, but in both

cases the disease is progressing, because only total sobriety can stop the

progress of alcoholism. Many try to give up drinking on that stage, because

health is far not as good as it was before.

Third stage:

A predictable final of many-year’s abuse of alcohol – stage of

degradation and payoff for drinking. Alcohol withdrawal syndromes, liver

disease, gastritis, anemia, neurological disorders, impairments in

cognition, changes in mood and behaviour, marital problems and child abuse,

impaired social relationships, scholastic or job problems and legal,

financial, or spiritual problems. A person is not a person any more he is a

wreck (http://www.alcoholism.ru).

More of that is that “alcoholism causes premature death through

overdose, organic complications involving the brain, liver, heart and many

other organs, and by contributing to suicide, homicide, motor vehicle

crashes, and other traumatic events”.

“Can alcoholism be cured? While alcoholism is a treatable disease, a

cure is not yet available. That means that even if an alcoholic has been

sober for a long while and has regained health, he or she remains

susceptible to relapse and must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.

"Cutting down" on drinking doesn't work; cutting out alcohol is necessary

for a successful recovery.

However, even individuals who are determined to stay sober may suffer

one or several "slips," or relapses, before achieving long-term sobriety.

Relapses are very common and do not mean that a person has failed or cannot

eventually recover from alcoholism. Keep in mind, too, that every day that

a recovering alcoholic has stayed sober prior to a relapse is extremely

valuable time, both to the individual and to his or her family. If a

relapse occurs, it is very important to try to stop drinking once again and

to get whatever additional support is needed to abstain from drinking.”


In Lithuania people have been always drinking in big amounts. Now we

consume more and more alcohol despite of the widespread public and media

awareness of the social consequences and health problems caused by


“Alcohol consumption during the Soviet period in Lithuania, when

drinking was widely tolerated even in the workplace, alcohol consumption

increased consistently. Consumption reached a level of three litres of

alcohol per head in 1960, 8 litres in 1970, 10.1 litres in 1975, 10.5

litres in 1980, and approximately 11 litres in 1984.

By the beginning of the 1990s, alcoholism had become a serious social

and health problem. As early as 1966, special institutions, called

“treatment-work therapy centres”, were established as part of the law and

order system for the compulsory treatment of alcoholism. People who were

heavy drinkers and did not seek treatment were forcibly confined for

treatment in such centres for up to two years.

In an attempt to solve the urgent alcohol problem, in 1985 a strict

anti-alcohol campaign was enforced in what was then the Soviet Union. The

campaign involved tight limits on the availability of alcoholic drinks, and

stricter controls in the work place.

Official statistics indicate that, in 1995, the average consumption of

alcohol per capita in Lithuania was 8-9 litres. These official statistics

are unlikely to reflect reality accurately, and some indirect expert

estimates, based on cases of alcoholic psychosis, indicate that the average

alcohol consumption per person can reach 17-20 litres, although these data

are not confirmed by household expenditure statistics. Main reasons cited

for the increase in alcohol consumption include deterioration in living

standards, unemployment, poverty, an increased feeling of insecurity, the

crisis in “values” and the lack of a social-psychological support system.

As a consequence, demand for alcoholic drinks has increased.”


Alcoholism, chronic and usually progressive illness. Alcoholism is

thought to arise from a combination of a wide range of physiological,

psychological, social, and genetic factors. It is characterized by an

emotional and often physical dependence on alcohol, and it frequently leads

to brain damage or early death.

More males than females are affected by alcoholism, but drinking among

the young and among women is increasing. Consumption of alcohol is

apparently on the rise in the United States, as is the total alcohol

consumption and prevalence of alcohol-related problems in the former

communist countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This

increase is paralleled in other countries, including developing nations.

After 1980, however, consumption remained relatively stable in many western

European nations.

Alcoholism, as opposed to merely excessive or irresponsible drinking,

has been thought of as a symptom of psychological or social stress or as a

learned, maladaptive coping behaviour. More recently, and probably more

accurately, it has come to be viewed as a complex disease in its own right.

Alcoholism usually develops over a period of years. Alcohol comes to be

used more as a mood-changing drug than as a foodstuff or beverage served as

a part of social custom or religious ritual.

Initially, the alcoholic may demonstrate a high tolerance to alcohol,

consuming more and showing fewer adverse effects than others. Subsequently,

however, the person begins to drink against his or her own best interests,

as alcohol comes to assume more importance than personal relationships,

work, reputation, or even physical health. The person commonly loses

control over drinking and is increasingly unable to predict how much

alcohol will be consumed on a given occasion or, if the person is currently

abstaining, when the drinking will resume again. Physical addiction to the

drug may occur, sometimes eventually leading to drinking around the clock

to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol has direct toxic as well as sedative effects on the body, and

failure to take care of nutritional and other physical needs during

prolonged periods of excessive drinking may further complicate matters.

Advanced cases often require hospitalization. The effects on major organ

systems are cumulative and include a wide range of digestive-system

disorders such as ulcers, inflammation of the pancreas, and cirrhosis of

the liver. The central and peripheral nervous systems can be permanently

damaged. Blackouts, hallucinations, and extreme tremors may occur. The

latter symptoms are involved in the most serious alcohol withdrawal

syndrome, delirium tremens, which can prove fatal despite prompt treatment.

This is in contrast to withdrawal from narcotic drugs such as heroin,

which, although distressing, rarely results in death. Recent evidence has

shown that heavy and even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause

serious damage to the unborn child: physical or mental retardation, or

both; a rare but severe expression of this damage is known as foetal

alcohol syndrome (Markov et al.).

Works cited and consulted






“Psihologija”, [Psychology], Markov et al., Moscow, June 1991

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