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What Is In Alcohol That Makes It Addictive

Withdrawal: The 2nd Major Warning Sign

Drug & Alcohol Addiction: What it Does to Your Brain

Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag. When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if its taken away.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit.

Do You Misuse Alcohol

Sometimes it can be challenging to draw the line between safe alcohol consumption and the misuse of alcohol. If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may misuse alcohol:

  • Do you need to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol?
  • Do you feel guilty about your alcohol consumption?
  • Do you become irritable or angry when you are drinking?
  • Do you have issues at school or work because of drinking?
  • Do you think you should reduce your alcohol intake?

The Most Common Addictions

Millions of people around the world struggle with SUDs. Some of the most common drugs that impede peoples lives include:

  • Nicotine
  • About

Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelors and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffreys desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffreys mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

Clinically Reviewed:

David Hampton

  • About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors , David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.

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The Brain And Alcoholism

Your brain plays a large role in addiction. Dependency can be physical or mental, but its usually the pleasure processed by the brain that triggers overuse and abuse of a substance. Those good vibrations and feel good sensations are, quite literally, addictive.

According to the case study presented by, some prescription medications used to aid alcoholics in taming their cravings work by blocking the opioid response in the brain. While such prescriptions do not work for everyone, the science behind them indicates that what makes alcohol so addictive is its effects.

The Psychological Factors That Drive Alcohol Use Disorder

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in the System?

Being addicted to alcohol is the same as being physically and chemically dependent upon it. However, understanding the factors that increase the likelihood of dependence is important. The line between alcohol abuse and addiction is a very fine one indeed.

With a better understanding of why theyre more predisposed to heavy drinking, people can make the conscious decision to abstain while they still have the power to do so. More importantly, this understanding is also a critical part of the addiction recovery process.

Being addicted to alcohol is not a personal shortcoming or a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a disease. When people know the factors that cause and exacerbate their disease, they are less likely to convince themselves that having just one drink will be unproblematic.

With genetic predisposition, certain physiological factors alter how the brain responds chemically to alcohol use. For those who are genetically predisposed, the desire to drink and the appeal of alcohol itself are largely defined by the tremendous feelings of well-being and happiness that are incited by imbibing.

However, for other people, the risk factors for addiction are largely psychological in nature. For instance, some people drink due to low self-esteem and an overwhelming desire to fit in. This is a common catalyst for alcoholism among young adults, and among those who have experienced substantial physical, emotional, or even sexual abuse during their formative years of life.

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Why Is Alcohol Addictive For Some People And Not Others

Home | News | Why Is Alcohol Addictive for Some People and Not Others?

Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are common in the United States. Nearly 6% of American adults and 2% of American adolescents suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol abuse claims an estimated 88,000 American lives annually. In 2010, it cost the nation $249 billion dollars. Despite these health and economic consequences, less than 7% of American adults and 6% of American adolescents received treatment for their disease. These facts beg the question: why is alcohol addictive?


Treatment Options For Alcoholism

How to stop drinking: If you suspect that you or someone you care about has an AUD, it may be time to seek professional help. No matter how serious the problem seems, people can recover from alcoholism and live happier, more productive lives.

NIAAA reports that alcohol addiction treatment can be very effective, with research showing that about 1/3 of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later.

Many people are able to significantly reduce their drinking and suffer from fewer alcohol-related problems after treatment.15

You can take several steps to help rehabilitate yourself or someone you care about from AUD, including:

  • Having an intervention.
  • Entering a medical detox facility to help manage a potentially-severe acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome when quitting use.
  • Beginning an alcohol treatment/rehabilitation program.
  • Engaging in aftercare once the treatment process is complete.

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Other Signs And Symptoms Of Alcoholism

Youve lost control over your drinking. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldnt.

You want to quit drinking, but you cant. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.

You have given up other activities because of alcohol. Youre spending less time on activities that used to be important to you because of your alcohol use.

Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus. You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. You have few if any interests or social involvements that dont revolve around drinking.

You drink even though you know its causing problems. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.

The Effects Of Alcohol Abuse On The People You Love

How does alcohol make you drunk? – Judy Grisel

Despite the potentially lethal damage that heavy drinking inflicts on the bodyincluding cancer, heart problems, and liver diseasethe social consequences can be just as devastating. Alcoholics and alcohol abusers are much more likely to get divorced, have problems with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty.

But even if youre able to succeed at work or hold your marriage together, you cant escape the effects that alcoholism and alcohol abuse have on your personal relationships. Drinking problems put an enormous strain on the people closest to you.

Often, family members and close friends feel obligated to cover for the person with the drinking problem. So they take on the burden of cleaning up your messes, lying for you, or working more to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and hiding away all of their fears and resentments can take an enormous toll. Children are especially sensitive and can suffer long-lasting emotional trauma when a parent or caretaker is an alcoholic or heavy drinker.

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How Does Alcohol Become Addictive

Alcohol consumption is usually a social activity. People drink because their friends, coworkers, and family are drinking. Therein lies the problem Drinking produces a sort of high that we begin craving. Whether its the feeling of fitting in, being the center of attention, forgetting about their problems for a while, or simply numbing any pain you feel, those feelings can become addictive.

The more you feed into these feelings by drinking, the higher your tolerance levels get. This begins a vicious cycle of needing more and more alcohol to reach the level that youre used to.

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.

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Alcoholics Anonymous And Other Support Groups

Many people addicted to alcohol also turn to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous . There are also other support groups that dont follow the 12-step model, such as SMART Recovery and Sober Recovery.

Regardless of the type of support system, its helpful to get involved in at least one when getting sober. Sober communities can help someone struggling with alcohol addiction deal with the challenges of sobriety in day-to-day life. Sober communities can also share relatable experiences and offer new, healthy friendships. And these communities make the person with an alcohol addiction accountable and provide a place to turn to if there is a relapse.

Recognizing And Understanding Addiction

Alcohol Addiction

Identifying an SUD can be a complicated process. While some signs of addiction are obvious, others are more difficult to recognize. Many people who realize they have a problem will try to hide it from family and friends, making it harder to tell whether someone is struggling.

Television, media, and film often depict people with SUDs as criminals or individuals with moral shortcomings. The truth is, theres no single face of addiction. Anyone can develop patterns of abuse or risky behaviors, no matter their age, culture, or financial status.

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Warning Signs Of Addiction

Addictions begin with experimentation with a substance. There are many reasons someone might initially try a drug: curiosity, peer pressure, stress, and problems at work or home being some of them.

If you are concerned someone you care about is struggling with addiction, there are several red flags you can look for. However, its important to remember everyone is different it may be harder to detect an addiction in some people than in others. That being said, here are some general warning signs to be aware of:

  • Ignoring commitments or responsibilities
  • Staying up later than usual or sleeping in longer
  • Lapses in concentration or memory
  • Being oddly secretive about parts of personal life
  • Withdrawal from normal social contacts
  • Sudden mood swings and changes in behavior
  • Unusual lack of motivation
  • Weight loss or changes in physical appearance

No one expects to develop an addiction when they begin experimenting. But continued experimentation can lead to addiction, often without the person realizing they have become addicted until they try to stop.

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction In Mississippi

At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we understand alcoholism as a painful, progressive, and incredibly challenging disease. Our intensive outpatient and inpatient programs provide people with access to a diverse range of tools for overcoming their addictions. These include medically assisted detox services, group and individual counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. If you believe that youre addicted to alcohol and want help in finding your way back to sobriety and good health, were always available to provide it. Call us now at 855-334-6120.

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What Causes Alcohol Dependence

Usually several different factors contribute to someone becoming alcohol dependent. Stressful events, such as bereavement or losing a job, can also trigger heavy drinking, which can then lead to alcohol dependence.

Alcohol dependence can run in families. Its partly down to your genes, but is also influenced by your familys attitudes to alcohol and the environment you grow up in.

People who are alcohol dependent have higher rates of other psychiatric disorders than people in the general population particularly depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis and drug misuse. Often, people drink to try and reduce the symptoms , but in the long term alcohol makes these disorders worse because it interferes with the chemical balance in our brains.

Some people believe that theres such thing as an addictive personality which leads to alcohol dependence. But theres not much strong evidence to support this view.

Who Uses And Who Abuses Alcohol


The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 86% of American adults have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives. By the age of 15, up to 30% of American adolescents have already tried alcohol.

Some people may successfully limit their alcohol use to an occasional drink or social drinking. Medical advice and national dietary guidelines encourage adults to drink alcohol in moderation: up to 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks a day for men.

Other people may be unable to drink alcohol without abusing it. These individuals may be referred to as binge drinkers or heavy drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men on any occasion.

Heavy alcohol use, defined as binge drinking 5 or more days a month, puts you at risk of developing alcoholism. More than 33% of American adults and nearly 15% of American adolescents binge drink or drink heavily.

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What Makes Alcohol Addictive

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the U.S. More than 15 million American adults suffer from alcohol addiction, which can be caused by genetics, stress, and physical reactions in the brain and body. People who are suffering from alcohol addiction can be treated in Vertava Health alcohol rehab programs.

At least once a day, the average American sees images that depict alcohol as a way to celebrate, relax, or toast a special moment. While many people can enjoy an occasional social drink, millions of others struggle with the shame and confusion of alcohol addiction.

Many may wonder why some people become addicted to alcohol and others do not. There are several factors that influence what makes alcohol addictive, including the physical and psychological impacts of the drug. Because of the way alcohol interacts with both the brain and body, it is considered a highly addictive substance.

Alcohol addiction can lead to a number of devastating consequences. Nearly 90,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

The only way to change these numbers is to collectively gain a broader understanding of what exactly makes alcohol so addictive. If you or someone you love is currently battling alcohol addiction, there is help available. Vertava Health offer personalized alcohol rehab programs throughout the country.

Is Alcohol Classified As A Drug

Alcohol is a drug. It is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant, which means that drinking alcohol slows down brain functioning, neural activity, and further reduces the functioning of various vital functions in the body. This is due to the increased production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. When someone consumes large quantities of alcohol, specifically more than the body is equipped to process, the result is depressant effects. Some of the many depressant effects from alcohol include:

  • Delayed reaction time
  • Poor coordination or lack of motor skills
  • Distorted perceptions
  • Distorted judgment
  • Sedation

Although alcohol is clinically classified as a depressant, it also is proven to have stimulant effects depending on the amount and rate at which the alcohol is consumed. In small quantities, alcohol is more likely to result in stimulatory effects. These stimulatory effects are often the effects many people seek when they drink alcohol. Some of the stimulatory effects of alcohol include:

  • Talkativeness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Euphoria

When a person consumes larger quantities of alcohol, specifically more than the body is equipped to process, the drinker is more likely to experience the depressant effects of alcohol. Whether drinking beer, wine, or liquor, the amount used can drastically impact whether the user experiences depressant or stimulant effects.

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The Addictive Factors In Alcohol And Why It Prompts Alcohol And Drug Rehab

Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in America today, but exactly what makes alcohol addictive? According to the NCADD, 17.6 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol dependence or chronic alcohol abuse. Thats about one in twelve adults, with many more engaging in unhealthy binge drinking habits that can develop into alcoholism.

If you have witnessed someone deal with alcohol use disorder, you know finding a way to help can be challenging. The truth is, people drink for different reasons, so there is not one single solution treatment that works for one patient may not work for another. Ultimately, both physical and psychological addictive factors come into play when overcoming addiction.

What Makes Alcohol Addictive: Physical vs Psychological Factors

Physical Factors

Drinking alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine and endorphins within the brain. These are the chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction and act as a natural painkiller. Studies have shown that genetic factors come into play when determining how alcohol reacts in the brains of different people. Specifically, some peoples brains released more pleasure chemicals in response to alcohol, making them more susceptible to physical dependency.



People who are addicted to alcohol and suddenly stop drinking undergo a detoxification process that can have a number of physical and psychological symptoms. These include:

  • Nausea

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