Monday, June 17, 2024

How Does Alcohol Become Addictive

Immediate Effects Of Alcohol

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Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system, causing mental and physical faculties to slow down and become impaired.

This means that alcohol consumed in small doses can reduce anxiety and stress and make the consumer feel relaxed. For this reason, alcohol is often consumed in social situations where it may reduce anxiety, negate worries about others opinions, and boost confidence.

While the early effects of alcohol use are usually fairly mild for most people, prolonged use can cause more severe symptoms. The culture of alcohol consumption in Western countries has also made it difficult to identify the difference between casual use and abuse. The most common differentiator is that abuse typically in a negative impact on one’s life, such as:

  • Financial difficulty

The culmination of these negative factors over time can lead to addiction.

Difficult Questions To Ask Yourself

There are ways to look out for the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency. A helpful way to do this to ask yourself some admittedly difficult questions. The answers will be essential in determining if there is an alcohol addiction or problem that requires help to resolve.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I ever find myself drinking daily, or at inappropriate times such as during work?
  • Have I ever had an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves or to help me face the day?
  • Have I noticed myself drinking more frequently or in larger quantities?
  • Have I noticed any changes in my mood or mental health since my alcohol consumption has increased?
  • Do I avoid situations where there is no alcohol or if it means I wont be able to have a drink?
  • Do I ever hide my alcohol?
  • Is the amount I drink starting to have an impact on my job or family life?
  • Have I ever become angry or defensive when questioned about my drinking?
  • Do I ever drink because I am upset or cannot cope with my emotions?
  • Do I ever blackout from drinking and wake up with no memory of recent events?

Difficult as it may be to answer these questions honestly, doing so can help a person determine if they have an alcohol issue that they need to address. This will in turn allow the person to get the help they need to avoid the physical and psychological effects of daily alcohol consumption.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Brain

To understand alcohol addiction, first, you need an overview of how even low-risk drinking affects your brain.

  • When you drink any alcohol, even on a single occasion, its absorbed through your stomach lining, making its way to your bloodstream.
  • Once an alcoholic drink is in your bloodstream, it spreads to your bodily tissues, reaching your brain in just five minutes.
  • After around 20 minutes, your liver will begin to process alcohol.
  • When you drink more than your liver can process, youll feel intoxicated as your blood alcohol content goes up.
  • As part of its short-term effects, alcohol begins to interfere with your brains communication pathways. Even moderate drinking can affect how your brain processes information and the function of the prefrontal cortex and other brain areas.
  • A single drink can affect your judgment, behavior, and reaction time.
  • Your brain will begin to release dopamine when you first consume alcohol. Dopamine is a pleasure neurotransmitter. You may feel confident, relaxed, and even euphoric. Simultaneously, your memory and reasoning can become impaired.
  • After you become legally intoxicated and your blood alcohol concentration goes up, the symptoms of excessive alcohol become more severe and pronounced.
  • You may have blurred vision, slurred speech, and a loss of control.
  • Your motor skills can be affected, and you may experience physical symptoms like nausea or vomiting.

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Signs Of Alcohol Addiction

To keep any health-related alcohol risks to a minimum, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommends limiting alcohol consumption to a maximum of 14 units per week regularly. Although the safest amount by their guidelines their medical officers admit there is no current proof suggesting that the consumption of only small doses of alcohol often is without health implications.

For those habitually drinking 14 units weekly, it is recommended to spread this out over several days and have several alcohol-free days.

When we feel worried about the alcohol consumption of a person close to us, it can be difficult to determine if they have a substance abuse problem.

This is because drinking alcohol daily does not immediately set precedence for someone having an alcohol addiction. For example, someone could consume their 14 units per week as per the UK Chief Medical Officers guidelines and not be considered in danger as they are within the recommended limits.

However, if you or someone you know finds themselves consistently consuming more than the recommended 14 units weekly, or are finding it difficult not to have any alcohol-free days the alcohol consumption may have become an addiction.

Alcohol Consumption And Social Influences

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One of the reasons that AUDs are increasing so much is that alcohol and drinking are socially acceptableand even expectedin most communities. We are bombarded with ads for alcohol. These ads portray alcohol as not only harmless but as a way to have fun, enjoy family and friends, and let loose. And while many Americans can consume alcohol harmlessly, the millions who are unable to do so often succumb to the innocent portrayal of heavy drinking.

Many people who are living with an AUD, mistakenly think that really having a problem with alcohol would mean being that stereotypical alcoholic drinking on the streets or losing it all. That simply isnt the case. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease. There are stages of alcoholism and the sooner an individual gets help, the better for not only them but their families as well.

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Why Is Alcohol Addictive

Alcohol is addictive because it alters the brains reward system. This system is important because it supports naturally rewarding behaviors like eating, sleeping, working, socializing, having sex and parenting. With continuous, heavy use, the brain learns to prioritize alcohol over everything else.

The anticipation of alcohol use is registered in the thalamus, the brains relay center. Brain cells, known as neurons, generate an electrical signal that causes nearby neurons to release chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters bind to the receptors on the next neurons, regenerating the electrical signal. This electrochemical messaging continues until the signal reaches the brainstem.

Anticipated or actual alcohol use signals the midbrain structure of the brainstem to release the pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine. When our brains release dopamine, the dopamine binds to receptors located throughout the brain to influence our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Alcohol, like other drugs, produces much more dopamine than natural rewards do, making it addictive.

Long-term alcohol use repeatedly floods the reward system with dopamine. The brain adapts by reducing its dopamine production in response to natural rewards and alcohol. It also.

Can You Be Physically Addicted To Alcohol

Yes. Alcohol changes the way the brains communication pathways work. This drug can change a persons mood, behavior, and physical abilities. Alcohol also causes a chemical reaction with the brains gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. This stimulates the brains pleasure and reward center and causes endorphins to release.

Endorphins lead to feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and satisfaction. Some peoples brains produce higher levels of these hormones. Over time, the body may begin to crave this euphoric reaction.

People may begin to have intense cravings or lose the ability to control how much they drink. Heavy or frequent alcohol use can result in physical dependence. When this happens, a persons body requires the drug in order to function properly.

People who are physically dependent on alcohol may display signs, including:

  • memory blackouts
  • shaky hands
  • change in sex drive or ability
  • dizziness or falling
  • problems at work, home, or with the legal system

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When Should Someone Seek Help

Individuals often hide their drinking or deny they have a problem. How can you tell if you or someone you know is in trouble? Signs of a possible problem include having friends or relatives express concern, being annoyed when people criticize your drinking, feeling guilty about your drinking and thinking that you should cut down but finding yourself unable to do so, or needing a morning drink to steady your nerves or relieve a hangover.

Some people with drinking problems work hard to resolve them. With the support of family members or friends, these individuals are often able to recover on their own. However, those with alcohol dependence usually can’t stop drinking through willpower alone. Many need outside help. They may need medically supervised detoxification to avoid potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures. Once people are stabilized, they may need help resolving psychological issues associated with problem drinking.

There are several approaches available for treating alcohol problems. No one approach is best for all individuals.

When Does Drinking Become A Problem

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For most adults, moderate alcohol use no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women and older people is relatively harmless. (A “drink” means 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer, all of which contain 0.5 ounces of alcohol.

Moderate use, however, lies at one end of a range that moves through alcohol abuse to alcohol dependence:

  • Alcohol abuse is a drinking pattern that results in significant and recurrent adverse consequences. Alcohol abusers may fail to fulfill major school, work, or family obligations. They may have drinking-related legal problems, such as repeated arrests for driving while intoxicated. They may have relationship problems related to their drinking.

  • People with alcoholism technically known as alcohol dependence have lost reliable control of their alcohol use. It doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol someone drinks or even how much: Alcohol-dependent people are often unable to stop drinking once they start. Alcohol dependence is characterized by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms if drinking is suddenly stopped. Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, sweating, restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions.

Although severe alcohol problems get the most public attention, even mild to moderate problems cause substantial damage to individuals, their families and the community.

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What Does It Mean To Be Addicted To Alcohol

The development of alcohol dependency can be conceptualized as following a general pattern. The following phases may be recognized:

  • Pre-alcoholic symptomatic phase, or occasional social drinking that may progress to a perceived need to drink to relax or deal with stressful situations. This, in turn, may lead to an increased frequency and amount of alcohol consumed. Tolerance to alcohol already begins to develop in this early stage.
  • Prodromal phase, or the beginning stage of alcoholism, is the start of a users preoccupation with alcohol. User may experience some difficulty remembering what happened when drinking, and some feelings of guilt around drinking.
  • Crucial phase, or loss of control over drinking. Full symptoms of alcoholism appear, including denial, disruptions in work or family life, failed attempts to get help, and periods of both refrain from drinking and excessive drinking.
  • Chronic phase, or extended periods of binge or otherwise excessive drinking that leads to prolonged periods of intoxication. Both physical and mental health may follow a sharp decline over the course of the chronic phase. Additionally, users may experience a significant disruption, if not a total disintegration of social interaction and daily routineoften disappearing from family and friends and struggling to maintain jobs, etc.

How Does The Body Become Dependent On Alcohol

How Does Alcohol Dependence Develop? No one sets out to become an alcoholic, but regular, heavy drinking can result in alcohol dependence and alcoholism. When we drink, alcohol enters the brain and disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters that keep the body functioning normally.

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Wondering What Makes A Person An Alcoholic Have You Asked How Does Alcohol Addiction Start Find Out More

How does alcohol addiction start and is there a genetic factor involved? There are many ways and reasons that a person becomes addicted to alcohol, and although genetics can play a role in some addiction, it is not always the case. Alcohol addiction takes time to develop and habitual drinking will begin to affect the brain and body. These chemical and structural changes will begin to make the drinker alcohol dependent. Alcohol floods the reward center of the brain with neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that create feelings of euphoria, calm, relaxation, giddiness, happiness, and playfulness. It also diminishes the perception of physical and emotional pain, and appears to be an attractive alternative for anyone suffering with chronic pain or mental health disorders.

Adolescents are a vulnerable population where drinking alcohol can get out of control. How does alcohol addiction start among adolescents? There are many factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and addiction among the young. Some of these factors include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Family problems, or substance abuse in the home
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Mental health problems
  • Physical problems

Alcohol affects the drinker both physically and mentally, and produces a variety of alcohol addiction symptoms which include:

What Are Some Alcoholism Causes And Risk Factors

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Over the past several decades, many studies have focused on the causes and risk factors associated with alcoholism. While there is not an exact formula to depict a persons drinking habits, data has shown that alcohol abuse is influenced by a variety of factors. However, alcoholism is a disease that does not discriminate and can impact anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, body type or personal beliefs.

Alcohol dependence can form quickly and aggressively, or it may surface over a longer period of time. Regardless of when or how a drinking problem starts, there are plenty of treatment options available to help get your life back on track. Seeking professional help will provide you with the greatest chance for lasting sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, help is only a phone call away. Contact a treatment provider now to learn about available treatment options.

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Addictive Properties Of Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that consuming alcohol reduces, or inhibits, overall brain activity. The most important way alcohol inhibits brain activity is by increasing signaling by a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid .

GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and drugs that increase GABA signaling are used as sedatives, muscle-relaxants, and anti-anxiety medications, among other things. Increased inhibitory signaling in the brain due to alcohol is the reason people who drink excessively slur their speech, have difficulty walking, and suffer memory loss or blackouts.

If a person drinks alcohol often, their brain will adapt to the increased inhibition by increasing excitatory signaling through neurotransmitters like glutamate. The neural activity of glutamate essentially opposes that of GABA and results in a generalized increase in brain cell excitation or firing rate. Such adaptations lead to tolerance in problem drinkersover time, these individuals must drink more and more to experience the same effects from alcohol. This begins a vicious cycle of increased drinking followed by greater tolerance that eventually leads to dependence and addiction.

As alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and travels throughout the body, its effects can be felt almost immediately:

The 10 Most Common Causes Of Alcoholism

  • Alcohol Addiction
  • The 10 Most Common Causes of Alcoholism
  • Since there isnt one exact cause of alcoholism, experts instead identify risk factors as potentials for development. Professionals believe that these factors may play a role in the development of alcohol use disorders as they have been evident in the lives of many individuals who suffer from alcohol dependence and addiction.

    Risk factors can be environmental, biological, and psychological. While the presence of these factors does not guarantee that a person will develop an alcohol use disorder, its important to be aware of the circumstances and components that can lead alcoholism in some cases.

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    Do I Have A Problem With Alcohol

    If you can relate to a number of the following statements, you may be struggling with an alcohol addiction or dependency particularly if you are driving alcohol every day on a regular basis.

    • I spend a large amount of time thinking about, obtaining and drinking alcohol
    • If I am unable to drink alcohol one day, I feel extremely anxious and agitated
    • I have started to neglect my responsibilities at school, work or home
    • I need to drink more alcohol in order to experience the same effects
    • I would like to reduce or completely stop my alcohol intake but have been unable to do so
    • Drinking alcohol has become one of the only good things about my day
    • I cant imagine my life without alcohol
    • I struggle to function if I am unable to drink alcohol
    • I find it difficult to stop after one or two drinks
    • Friends, family members or colleagues have started to make comments about my alcohol use
    • I have experienced negative consequences due to my alcohol use but continue to drink
    • I drink alcohol at inappropriate times such as first thing in the morning or when I am in charge of children

    Its healthy to regularly challenge your behaviours and mindset around alcohol and to be honest with yourself about your relationship with this substance. If you have concerns about your alcohol consumption, give our friendly team at Rehab Recovery a call.

    Well be happy to talk you through your options and guide you towards professional support that works for you and your lifestyle.

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