Those who have not struggled with alcohol addiction or suffered withdrawal symptoms may ask why is alcohol addictive. Many addictive substances affect people in similar ways, but addiction can occur for almost any substance or action. Suffering from addiction can be dark and cause you to lose people close to you. Recovery from addictive substances should not be done alone, especially with something as social and accepted as alcohol. This blog will discuss what alcohol does to the brain, how these effects make a person become addicted, and how people can overcome addiction.
The Addiction Cycle
The addiction cycle includes three stages:
- Negative affect/Withdrawl
The brain starts to depend on the feeling and effects of alcohol to survive. It starts to affect the physical and psychological actions of the user which may help them in awkward or stressful situations.
Alcohol Use Disorder has different stages including alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism. Once the person loses the ability to control their usage or stop using alcohol because of health concerns, their AUD becomes more severe. The severity will also depend on how the alcohol is affecting the person’s brain and organs.
Flooding Your System With Dopamine
During the reward stage or Binge/Intoxication stage, the body and brain feel some euphoria and reduction of anxiety. Alcohol affects the basal ganglia whose role in the brain is to form habits and routine behaviors.
The chemical reaction in the brain from alcohol floods your nervous system with dopamine, and that flood of high levels and emotion can make your body crave that feeling when your body is at a more maintained level (during the work day, or at extremely low points like depressive episodes). When your body doesn’t have alcohol and starts to shut down or your thinking slows, this is called withdrawal.
Psychological And Physical Factors That Contribute To Addiction
When it comes to the physical factors that make alcohol addictive, it is as simple as the changes it makes to your brain. This is why drinking at a young age is even more dangerous because the brain is not fully developed and will not know how to survive stress or problems without the assistance of alcohol. Over time the brain starts to prioritize alcohol consumption over or equal to normal rewards like sleep, sex, connection, or eating.
Relying on alcohol for dopamine will affect your psychological factors like memory, mood, and motivation. Those who become addicted will be unable to do normal tasks without the “assistance” of alcohol. So why is alcohol addictive? Because it makes your body crave an unnatural equilibrium.
Why Are Some People More Easily Addicted Than Others?
Many adults can drink socially and never become dependent on alcohol. There are environmental, social, and biological factors that can make alcohol addiction more of a risk for some individuals.
For example, those who have been around alcoholism as a child or are pressured into drinking as a teenager, their risk for addiction is higher. Mental health disorders have a direct link to alcohol addiction, especially diagnoses of anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar. Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism for many different stressors.
Certain gene groups are at higher risk for alcohol addiction because of other relatives with alcohol addiction and susceptibility. Genetic predisposition does not automatically mean you will become addicted though.
Alcohol Recovery With Red Willow Counseling And Recovery
Recovering from addiction can be a dark and lonely road. Red Willow wants to help improve your mental state while also helping you see that there are better-coping mechanisms than alcohol. We offer Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs, Addiction Intervention, and Drug and Alcohol Consultations to help you have well-rounded care.
Our therapists and counselors have knowledge and experience working with different types of people who are experiencing mental health issues and AUD at the same time. We want to help you manage your symptoms and learn more coping skills that you can use after you leave our office. If our healing and non-judgmental therapy sounds like the right fit for you, book an appointment with us in Salt Lake or Park City.