What Makes Alcohol Addictive?

Most people can socially drink on a night out with friends or casually enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without becoming addicted. Others, however, may not have the control to stop drinking after they start because they are developing an addiction to alcohol. In fact, more than 15 million people in the United States alone suffer from alcohol addiction. So what is it about alcohol that makes it a fun activity for some and a dangerous disorder for others?

Why & How Alcohol Is Addictive

Alcohol that is designed for drinking, which is otherwise known as ethyl alcohol, can cause individuals to become both mentally and physically addicted to the substance. This simple chemical can cause many changes in the brain and body function that may lead to dependence and addiction. For example, alcohol causes chemicals like dopamine and endorphins to be released in the brain. These chemicals can serve as natural painkillers and can produce feelings of pleasure and ease. Essentially, alcohol affects the brain’s reward center to increase positive energy and decrease anxiety. The pleasurable sensations that alcohol brings may make a person crave it more. So this explains why people might like to have a drink to relax or have fun, but what makes them continue drinking heavily to the point where they become addicted?

If someone uses a substance like alcohol consistently enough, their brain and body chemistry will begin to change. For example, drinking heavily can cause alteration in brain neurons. It impacts the areas that control general functions such as memory, balance, speech, and judgement. When someone drinks excessively, their ability to make positive decisions and control their impulses is impaired. They may eventually feel like they need to use alcohol regularly. When someone feels like they need to consume a substance, it is defined as ‘dependency.’ Once someone is dependent on a substance like alcohol, they could quickly develop an addiction.

Of course, not everyone has to worry about becoming dependent on alcohol. While this disorder can affect anyone, some individuals are also more likely than others to develop an alcohol addiction from an early age.


Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction

What makes one person more susceptible to addiction than someone else? Here are some of the risk factors for developing alcohol addiction:

  • Misuse of alcohol during adolescence
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • History of mental illness (anxiety)
  • Social pressures to drink
  • Alcohol-positive advertising
  • Close proximity to alcohol
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • History with trauma

Of course, not every child who sees alcohol advertisements and is in a low economic class will form an addiction later on in life. The above risks, however, are important to observe and note when analyzing what may increase a person’s chance of developing an alcohol addiction.


Alcohol Addiction Prevention and Treatment

The most effective ways to prevent alcohol addiction are to monitor your own drinking and to drink in moderation. If you have a history with alcohol addiction or someone in your immediate family is addicted to alcohol, it may be best to avoid consuming alcohol altogether.

If you are used to drinking heavily, do not stop suddenly without consulting a medical professional or rehabilitation specialist. If someone quits drinking, it is likely they will experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. While alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it is not dangerous and can be a relatively quick process if it is treated properly. After the alcohol is successfully detoxed from the body, individuals are encouraged to enroll or continue with an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. Whether someone requires impatient or outpatient treatment depends on the severity of their addiction. Treatment methods for alcohol addiction may include 12-step meetings like AA, other types of support groups, behavioral therapy, certain medications, and more.If someone uses a substance like alcohol consistently enough, their brain and body chemistry will begin to change.  

For more information about what makes alcohol addiction treatment, contact our team of substance abuse treatment specialists. Call us today 866-345-2147.



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