The Addictive Nature of Alcohol

Articles, Australia, International, United Kingdom, United States

If you’ve ever drank too much before, then you know that feeling where you wake up the next morning with your head pounding and feeling awful. You pledge to never drink again, but often the feeling wears off shortly after you recover from the previous night. Another opportunity arises to go out and drink with friends, so you go and drink another time. The cycle begins all over again

Maybe you do not go out and drink too much at night, but you cannot go a day without having an alcoholic beverage. A day passes and you are feeling out of sorts because you must have a drink in your system in order to feel “normal”.

In addition to all the affects you feel on the outside of your body, there are other effects happening within your body. Alcohol affects all parts of the body. It changes brain chemistry, the central nervous system, vision, the liver, sexual functions, and motor skills. Alcohol consumption can change the way the neurotransmitters absorb in the brain, causing them to send, receive or process information inaccurately. It also lowers inhibitions causing decision making processes to be impaired, which can cause injuries and possibly even death. Consuming alcohol can also disturb one’s speech. Since alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the functions of the central nervous system, which includes the slowing down of speech, thinking, as well as reaction time. High levels of alcohol can upset the central nervous system so drastically that it could possibly cause a person to slip into a coma or even cause death. Alcohol consumption changes one’s vision causing him to not be able to see clearly, which could have serious consequences while walking, driving or engaging in other activities also. Alcohol can change the way the body metabolizes the substance, which can lead to scarring the liver, and, ultimately, to the development of liver disease. When consuming alcohol, it can also affect one’s sexual performance causing it to be inhibited and can even result in impotence when used excessively. Finally, alcohol can cause one’s coordination to be impaired causing injuries or other problems as well. It is important to consider the risks of alcohol use when determining how it transforms one’s body.

After each binge or each day you cannot go without a drink, you may tell yourself, “I cannot keep harming my body like this.” However, you continue despite the negative feelings you are experiencing. Then the question we need to ask ourselves becomes, “What makes alcohol so addictive?”

In addition to the physical changes listed above, one of the most impressive factors of alcohol being addictive is the brain changes that occur with repeated use of alcohol. Repeated alcohol use alters brain processes and changes the way the brain perceives pleasure. It creates a message inside the brain that continually says it needs more pleasure. Then, the brain changes and is constantly seeking out those gratifying activities. A problem develops when the brain continues to tell one to seek out pleasurable activities despite the consequences one experiences, like those listed above. The consequences could include losing friendships or even legal trouble, but the person continues to use alcohol despite those negative experiences in their life.

Genetics also play a role in the addictive nature of alcohol. Those who have a prior family history of alcohol abuse are more prone to becoming addicted to alcohol. Although biology plays only about a 50% role in the addictive nature of alcoholism, it is still a significant factor to consider.

On the other hand, others become addicted to alcohol because they use it to decrease their symptoms of stress or other mental health disorders they are experiencing in everyday life. While using alcohol their psychological symptoms seem to decrease. However, when they stop alcohol use, the symptoms pop back up again causing the uncomfortable feelings of their mental health disorder to increase again. For this reason, they continue to use alcohol so they will not have to feel the effects of their psychological disorder. Even though the person believes the alcohol is keeping their emotional problems under control, it is actually creating more mental issues for the person. Alcohol has it’s own set of side effects that influence and contribute to more and more consumption. Using alcohol to curb symptoms has many serious risk factors and can leads to addiction as well.

There is not simply one factor that plays into the addictive nature of alcohol. However, many components play a role in alcohol being such an addictive drug.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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