Why Is Alcohol Addictive? How Alcohol Affects Brain & Body

According to recent data, 138.5 million Americans 12 and older are alcohol users, and 20.4% have an alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for alcohol addiction. This means just over one-fifth of those who consume alcohol will develop an addiction. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and uncomfortable, so it’s important to detox under the supervision of a medical professional. Finally, it’s important to understand that addiction is a disease.

why is alcohol addictive

Those who regularly drink heavily in social situations are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol as well. In fact, several studies found that alcohol abuse can physically alter the brain’s chemistry and functioning over a long period of time. This is because the brain adapts to alcohol’s release of dopamine and endorphins. Over time, the brain lessens the number of pleasure chemicals it releases and begins to crave more alcohol to fill the void. This can lead to compulsive drinking patterns and makes it difficult to stop. There are several factors that play a role in determining who becomes addicted to alcohol, including genetics and environmental influences.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Health care professionals use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to assess whether a person has AUD and to determine the severity, if the disorder is present. Severity is based on the number of criteria a person meets based on their symptoms—mild (2–3 criteria), moderate (4–5 criteria), or severe (6 or more criteria). Friends and family members of people who have an alcohol addiction can benefit from professional support or by joining programs like Al-Anon. In order for treatment to work, the person with an alcohol addiction must want to get sober. Regardless of how the addiction looks, someone typically has an alcohol addiction if they heavily rely on drinking and can’t stay sober for an extended period of time.

  • The consequences of long-term alcohol addiction are far-reaching, affecting not only the health of the individual but also their psychological well-being and personal relationships.
  • Drinking in the morning to prevent a hangover from a night of binge drinking indicates you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women shouldn’t drink more than one drink per day, and men shouldn’t drink more than two drinks per day.
  • Alcohol is physically addictive because it alters the chemicals in your brain.
  • Unfortunately, many individuals with this disorder do not seek medical attention until they encounter health issues or become entangled in legal complications.

As a New York Times headline put it, opioids feel like love (and that’s why they’re so deadly in tough times). That one can experience love through drugs might seem fantastical to many — but why is alcohol addicting such love is all too real and feels better than no love at all. Yet to label people “drug addicts” is to strip them of their humanity and assign them to the lowest echelons of our society.

Am I Addicted to Alcohol?

Essentially though, alcohol is addictive because it becomes needed to feel normal. We will explore the world of neurotransmitters, endorphins, genetics, and sociological reasoning to figure out why alcohol is addictive. Some people prefer to try cutting back or quitting on their own before committing time and money to rehab. And there are a few approaches that can identify and combat drinking at an early stage.

why is alcohol addictive

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