Why is Alcohol Addictive?
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 1/16/2022
Alcohol is well known to be an extremely addictive substance if not used responsibly. Drinking alcohol causes an effect on the brain which produces endorphins, including dopamine, that stimulate pleasurable feelings. These feelings can bring about calmness in the mind and physical relaxation as well. In small, responsible doses, these effects can be enjoyable for adults and may not lead to physical or psychological reliance. However, addiction can arise, and most times, alcohol addiction is developed in an individual who begins to rely on drinking alcohol for dopamine stimulation.
This dependence on alcohol is commonly defined as alcoholism. It is a disease which affects the lives of millions of people not just in the United States but around the globe. Alcohol addiction is an extremely serious physical and psychological affliction, especially in its most severe form, as continued abuse of alcohol can cause permanent changes to the chemistry of the brain. These changes to brain chemistry make people crave the release which alcohol provides, in turn taking away their brain’s natural ability to produce endorphins on its own without the exterior influence of alcohol.
At such a point, when a person has developed alcoholism, every time they drink alcohol, they are doing harm to their body and mind. When the mind becomes dependent on alcohol it no longer produces normal amounts of satisfactory, pleasurable feelings. The brain is now reliant on alcohol consumption to establish positive thoughts and emotions. Mentally, this can be disastrous, but the harm of alcohol addiction is not only psychological.
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What Makes Alcohol Addictive?
Overloading the brain with constant positive stimulus from alcohol is what makes alcohol so addictive. Sometimes, people who develop alcohol disorders and full-blown alcohol addiction start the self-destructive process by relying on alcohol to cope with the stress and challenges of their lives.
1. Psychological Factors
Alcoholism can begin as seemingly innocuous social drinking, that, over time, turns into a reliance on alcohol to enjoy every aspect of life. Either way, alcohol is made addictive by continued abuse, until the positive feelings provided by alcohol consumption cannot be felt without it. Addiction forms a dependency that, without medical rehabilitation, is very challenging to overcome.
2. Physical Factors
The addiction becomes physical too, as continued abuse forces the body to crave alcohol to feel at peace, so much so that when a person suffering from alcoholism does not drink, they experience withdrawal, which can come in the form of tremors, nausea, insomnia, and seizures, as well as severe psychological ramifications such as anxiety and depression.
Are There any Ingredients that Make Alcohol Addictive?
The psychoactive drug in wine, beer, spirits, and other alcoholic beverages is sometimes referred to by its chemical name: ethanol. More generally, alcohol is the active ingredient in all alcoholic beverages. Different percentages of alcohol are found in different styles of beverage, some far more potent than others, but the effect, after consumption, is relatively the same.
What does Alcohol Do to our Body in terms of addiction when We Drink It?
The feeling of calmness, relaxation, and in some cases positive thought, which can be caused by drinking alcohol, is felt in the body as well as the mind. These sensations can be as simple as a reduction in aches and pains, or as drastic as a loss of motor skills, and feelings of euphoria. As stated above, although these feelings are pleasurable, they are not being produced naturally by the mind, and that is why continued use creates a reliance on alcohol to feel such pleasurable feelings in the body.
What does Alcohol Do to our Brain in terms of addiction when We Drink It?
Alcohol creates dopamine spikes by interacting with the pleasure receptors of the brain. After continued abuse, the brain develops a reliance on alcohol to produce the chemicals in the brain that it would otherwise create with natural positive stimuli such as personal success, overcoming obstacles, and reaching important milestones in life.
Who are most Vulnerable to Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction can impact anyone who habitually abuses alcohol. No mind or body is immune to the addictive effects of alcohol. Studies show that there may be a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction in certain people, primarily those with members of the family who have struggled with alcoholism.
Also, people with stressful lives are more likely to turn to alcohol to cope. It is also common to see alcoholism develop in people who are in environments where binge drinking and alcohol consumption are everyday occurrences, such as on college campuses and in the bar/restaurant industry.
When does Alcohol Abuse Become an Addiction?
Alcohol abuse becomes an addiction when the individual can no longer abstain from using alcohol because of a physical and psychological reliance. When the person cannot socialize without the prospect of drinking, and when they regularly over consume to the point of blacking out, are both indications of addiction. Mood swings, depression without alcohol, and an inability to step out of the self-destructive pattern of drinking are all signs that alcohol abuse has turned into an addiction.
Another indication is physical and mental withdrawal if alcohol is not consumed. When the body can no longer function without alcohol in the system, that is when alcohol addiction is irrefutable.
What are the Harms of Alcohol Addiction?
Cirrhosis of the liver and mental illness are both long-term harms caused by alcohol addiction, but the harm caused by alcohol addiction can take many forms. People consumed by their addiction to alcohol can lose sight of what truly matters in their lives, turning away loved ones and losing positive momentum in their careers. When alcohol abuse becomes an addiction, nothing else in life matters as much as drinking and getting drunk. This dependency can consume the individual until drinking alcohol is all that they live for.
What are the Treatment Options of Alcoholism?
While alcoholism is an incredibly serious disease, there are tried and tested therapies which do work in helping people overcome their dependency on alcohol and return to living healthy, fulfilling lives. Treatment options such as rehabilitation centers provide a medical staff that oversees the withdrawal process and ensures an alcoholic will not be able to find a drink while they are going through withdrawal.
Other than treatment centers, there are national, and even global, programs full of people who have battled with alcoholism and survived to become incredibly productive members of society. These programs, most notably alcohol’s anonymous, create a community of individuals who have experienced the pitfalls of alcoholism and have decided to use their knowledge to help others struggling with addiction. Alcoholism can be treated, and rehabilitation is possible.