Alcohol addiction is a serious and complex problem that affects more people than we realise. It is typically characterised by a person’s physical dependence on alcohol and their overriding desire to drink alcohol. People who suffer from alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence will continue to drink regardless of the consequences. They will ignore the potential health problems and the negative impact that heavy drinking has on their mental and physical health as well as their daily lives and this eventually leads to a wide variety of personal and professional issues. Alcohol addiction ultimately destroys the life of the addict and in many cases their family members.
The Science Behind Alcohol Addiction
Even though people are more aware of the risk factors, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence still go largely untreated. In 2015 the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that only about 6.7 percent of adults with an alcohol use disorder received treatment.
The reasons that a person might develop alcohol addiction are many and varied but the fact remains that this condition often goes undetected and untreated for far too long, despite the fact that there are many treatment options available and people are more educated about the risks of alcohol consumption and abuse. To better treat alcohol use disorders, researchers and medical experts need to understand what causes alcohol addiction to develop and why some people are more at risk of developing alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence than others.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of people who are exposed to alcohol develop alcohol use disorders and studies conducted in Sweden and the United States suggest that alcohol addiction may develop due to a faulty signalling mechanism in the area of the brain that processes emotions. A common element of addiction, and what often separates addicts from other people, is a lack of motivational control that leads the addict to continue with their behaviour even when they know it is harmful or could be potentially lethal.
This could be linked to some people’s inability to clear away a substance known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) from around the neurons in the central amygdala of the brain. The amygdala is the region of the brain that controls emotion, learning, memory, and motivation. When researchers studied human brain tissue post-mortem, they found that the gene responsible for the production of GAT-3, a protein that helps clear GABA away from neurons, is expressed at significantly lower levels in the amygdala of people who suffer from alcohol addiction. This could help medical professionals gain a better understanding of what causes alcohol addiction to develop in some people but not others even when they are all exposed to alcohol.
Alcohol Dependence And Addiction Is About Tolerance And Compunction
In the past alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence were viewed as two distinct disorder, they now both fall under the term alcohol use disorder. An alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe and the diagnosis depends on the person’s symptoms as well as their drinking patterns and habits.
Alcohol dependence is all about the body’s tolerance to alcohol and people who are alcohol dependent are typically unable to cope physically, psychologically and emotionally without alcohol because their bodies have become reliant on alcohol. They suffer from cravings, have an overwhelming urge to drink and are preoccupied with when and where their next drink will come from. They also need to drink more and more in order to experience the desired effects of the alcohol and will suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they can’t drink. One of the first indicators of alcohol dependence is an increased tolerance to alcohol consumption.
To better understand alcohol addiction and dependence you need to understand the effects that alcohol has on the body and you need to accept that you are dealing with a disease. When a person drinks alcohol, it affects the neurotransmitters that enable your body to function normally and alters the balance of chemicals in your brain. Continuous heavy drinking or binge drinking lowers your serotonin levels making it more difficult for you to regulate your moods. The effects are temporary but if the body is exposed to high levels of alcohol for prolonged periods of time, the brain will compensate for the lowered serotonin levels and long-term chemical changes will develop, often causing the brain to become overstimulated.
In time these changes will become more permanent and the body will begin to crave alcohol. The effect of alcohol on the brain may also change the way a person perceives pleasure and lead to inappropriate behaviour.
Alcohol use disorder is a serious issue and people who are addicted to alcohol suffer from an inability to control their alcohol intake and feel compelled to drink even when they know that it is harmful to their physical and mental health. Their uncontrollable desire to consume copious amounts of alcohol will override all other concerns in their lives.
Alcohol Addiction Does Not Happen Overnight
It is important to realise that alcohol addiction is a disease and people do not choose to have an alcohol use disorder. It is not something that happens overnight and more often than not it takes a few years to develop and many people do not even realise that they have a problem with alcohol until it begins to wreak havoc with their lives. If you suspect that you or a loved one has developed an addiction to alcohol you need to act as soon as possible. Alcohol addiction is not a problem that is going to solve itself and to overcome an alcohol use disorder you need a treatment plan that combines detox, rehab, and counselling. If you are a heavy drinker with a long history of alcohol addiction and abuse, you should never attempt to detox without medical supervision as you could experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and can easily relapse.
Fortunately, with the right help and support, it is possible to overcome alcohol addiction. Call us today on 03301 596 494 to find out more about your treatment options.