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What Makes Alcohol Addictive? - Recovery Centers of America

Drinking liquor can be a fun and celebratory activity shared with family and friends. Alcohol makes people feel confident and happy, so a glass or two can spice up a conversation, give a small boost of confidence, or help people bust a groove on the dance floor.

But just like any substance, drinking too much alcohol can become very dangerous. Alcohol addiction is a growing problem that exists all over the world. It’s one of the causes for mental illnesses, marriage problems, domestic violence, unemployment, and many more.

So what makes alcohol so addictive? Why is it so dangerous?

The Dangers of Alcohol

Once social drinking crosses the line towards alcohol abuse, problems start to happen. Dependence on alcohol, drunk driving, and crimes associated with alcoholism are just some of the few dangers posed by abusing this seemingly harmful substance.

According to the NCADD, the number of people suffering from alcohol dependency or chronic alcohol abuse is 17.6 million in the United States alone. The number is staggering, and anyone who knows someone suffering from alcohol addiction also knows how difficult it is to help them quit.

The effects of alcohol and why it is so addictive have been studied numerous times over the years. Research shows that people suffering from alcohol addiction struggle to quit because of the chemical changes that are happening inside the brain.

When overcoming addiction, several psychological and physical factors need to be considered. It should also be known that treatment methods for one person may not work for another. There is not one single solution to cure alcoholism.

Finding a way to help can be challenging, but an excellent place to start is by learning about the psychological and physical effects of alcohol so you can spot the signs of addiction before it’s too late.

Psychological Addiction

The more people drink alcohol, the more it becomes a habit. Eventually, people suffering from alcohol addiction will need to drink more to feel good about themselves. Without alcohol, they feel empty and “not normal.”

Drinking alcohol releases endorphins in two key regions of the brain. These areas are associated with reward processing. The more a person drinks, the more they repeat the behavior to emulate the feel-good effects that their brain experiences.

Studies also show that the release of endorphins varies between heavy and light drinkers. Heavy drinkers experience more feel-good responses even with less amount of alcohol. This chemical reaction in the brain may also lead to dangerous drinking behavior, alcohol dependency, and eventually addiction.

Once this coping mechanism develops, it can seem very difficult to break out of the cycle. This feeling of helplessness can cause a person suffering from the addiction to continue drinking excessively even though a part of them knows they need to stop. The effects of alcohol may eventually manifest themselves in psychological ways like:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Hallucinations

The brain chemicals released from the alcohol provide a temporary escape and unhealthy solution to negative emotions. Like in any addiction, these underlying issues need to be addressed at the core of alcoholism, ideally before developing into more serious and dangerous physical symptoms.

Physical Addictive Factors

Most people suffering from alcohol addiction undergo withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of alcohol. The physical factors of alcoholism may manifest themselves in:

  • Insomnia

  • Seizures

  • Nausea

  • Hand tremors/“the shakes”

Alcohol hits multiple areas in the brain at the chemical level. This changes the brain’s natural chemistry and functioning. This results in the physical symptoms above and the feeling of being unable to overcome the addiction.

The feelings of pleasure and satisfaction associated with increased alcohol intake also function as a natural painkiller, making heavy drinkers more susceptible to physical dependency as a way to numb uncomfortable feelings.

Alcohol can also affect a person’s decision-making and impulse control. This can lead to dangerous behavior that can cause harm to a person suffering from alcohol addiction as well as the people around them.

A person may intend to stop, but due to the physical factors developed by increased alcohol intake, relapse becomes more likely. The more they fail to quit, the more they feel guilty and ashamed, and these negative feelings only reinforce the dangerous drinking behavior.

Getting Help and Treatment

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “about 20% of Americans with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder.” People who develop alcohol abuse and dependency may also have other psychological disorders that significantly impact the dangerous behavior.

Ultimately, drinking alcohol is a learned behavior, and a person’s thoughts and beliefs can have a significant effect on their alcohol intake. People abuse alcohol for different reasons, such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc.

Alcohol addiction, along with the psychological and physical factors associated with it, is a difficult cycle to break out of, but it isn’t impossible. There are many resources available to help people overcome alcohol abuse and dependency.

Some people suffering from this addiction may be reluctant to seek help due to feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. It’s a difficult step to take, but it’s a step in the right direction. Friends and family members must also show respect and empathy, understanding that the affliction is a sickness that is difficult to cure but still curable so that the recovery process will become easier.

If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction, do not hesitate to contact us so we can help. We at Recovery BLVD Treatment Center know the pitfalls of being under the influence of alcohol. We are here to help you overcome your struggles with alcohol use so you can truly find freedom from this addiction. You deserve to have the right care and community to help you find healing from addiction. We are here to be your support group and your professional help because we genuinely want what’s best for you. You can come to our treatment center at 1316 SE 12th Avenue Portland, OR 97214. Or call us at 503-897-1916 to get started.

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