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3rd June 2024

by maxweb

Min read

Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol is a substance that is often consumed socially, but its addictive nature is a serious worry. For many, alcohol can become a problem.

But why is alcohol addictive? What is it about this substance that causes some individuals to develop a dependence on it? Find out what you need to know in this article.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

When we drink alcohol, it travels through our bloodstream to our brain, which can change the way we feel, think, and behave.

Alcohol affects chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These chemicals help send messages between nerve cells – and one important neurotransmitter is dopamine.

Alcohol Addiction and Dopamine

Dopamine is a chemical that makes you feel good. When you do something enjoyable, like eating your favourite food or spending time with people you care about, your brain releases dopamine. This makes you want to do the activity again. Alcohol has the power to increase the amount of dopamine in your brain, making you feel happy and relaxed.

However, too much alcohol can change how your brain works. Over time, your brain gets used to the extra dopamine. This means you need to drink more alcohol to get the same good feeling. This is one reason why people become addicted to alcohol.

Other Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Alcohol doesn’t just affect dopamine. It also affects other neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glutamate. GABA is responsible for making you feel calm, and glutamate makes you feel more alert.

Alcohol increases GABA and decreases glutamate, which is why you might feel relaxed and less anxious after drinking. But, with regular use, your brain adjusts. It might produce less GABA and more glutamate, making you actually feel more nervous and irritable without alcohol. This balance shift makes you crave alcohol to feel normal again.

Alcohol Addiction: Tolerance vs. Dependence

As you drink more alcohol, your body builds a tolerance. This means you need to drink more to feel the same effects. For example, if you used to feel relaxed after one glass of wine, you might need two or three glasses to get the same feeling after drinking for a while.

In relation to alcohol dependence, what this means is that – when your body gets used to having alcohol, it can become dependent on it. So, your body will start to feel as though it needs alcohol to feel normal.

If you quit drinking suddenly, you might experience physical symptoms, such as shaking, feeling sick or sweating, as well as a range of psychological symptoms, which commonly include feeling stressed, sad, and anxious. This is called alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are very unpleasant and make it hard to stop drinking, and they can also be quite dangerous, depending on the person and the severity of the addiction.

Alcohol can also cause psychological dependence. So, similar to a physical dependency, you’ll start to feel like you need some level of alcohol consumption within your daily routine to cope with everyday life. You might drink to feel more confident, to relax after a hard day, or as a way of coping with problems you’re going through. Over time, you might believe you can’t handle these situations without alcohol.

Are Some People More Prone to Developing Alcohol Addiction?

Not everyone who drinks alcohol becomes addicted to alcohol, but there are certain factors that mean that someone may be more likely to develop an addiction in the future. These include genetics, mental health, and environment.

Genetics

Some people are more prone to alcohol addiction due to their genetic makeup. For example, if you have a family member who struggles with alcohol addiction, your risk might be higher. Various research studies have shown this to be the case, as our genes can influence how your brain reacts to alcohol and how quickly you develop a tolerance.

Mental Health

Living with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, and stress, can also heighten the risk of addiction. This is because research has shown that individuals with these conditions may turn to alcohol to improve their mood or as a form of escapism because of the emotional pain or numbness they are experiencing, but this can eventually lead to dependency.

Environmental Factors

Your surroundings can also significantly impact your likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction. For example, growing up in a household where heavy drinking is frequent and normalised can increase your chances of drinking.

Additionally, peer pressure to engage in binge drinking in social situations can also greatly influence your drinking habits, leading to both a physical and psychological addiction. Studies have also shown that even the price of alcohol can influence an individual to become dependent. If it’s cheaper to purchase, it increases the risk of engaging in alcohol abuse, which increases the chances of developing an addiction.

The Impact of Alcohol Addiction

Living in active addiction and drinking too much alcohol over a long time can seriously impact your body. Your liver takes a big hit, and you could end up developing liver cirrhosis, which is an extremely dangerous condition.

Alcohol addiction has also been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. It also affects your brain, causing memory problems and increasing the chance of mental health issues. Plus, alcohol weakens your immune system, so you get ill more easily.

Alcohol Addiction’s Impact on Day-to-Day Life and Relationships

Aside from the physical effects of alcohol dependency, day-to-day life and responsibilities become harder to maintain, but sometimes it’s not easy to spot.

For example, someone who is living with functioning alcoholism may not present as someone who has an issue with alcohol abuse, but in private, they will be battling with a constant craving, often finding ways to incorporate consuming alcohol into their day-to-day without others suspecting a thing.

If the addiction is overt, it can really strain your relationships with the people you care about. It can lead to constant arguments and breakdowns of trust.

Your family and friends might feel hurt and frustrated because of your drinking habits, and they might not understand that it’s a disease, not a choice, at first. Financial problems can also pile up, as money might get spent on alcohol instead of important things. All this stress can create a lot of emotional pain for everyone involved.

Socially, someone who is living in active addiction might also pull away from friends, family and activities they once enjoyed, especially if they don’t involve drinking.

Find Support for Alcohol Addiction Today

Alcohol addiction is a complex problem, and no experience with addiction is the same. But understanding how it works can help you take the first steps towards recovery.

It’s important to remember that if you’re struggling with your alcohol – you are not alone. Our team have helped many people find the support they need, and have overcome addiction. With the right support, you can too.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help.

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