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Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Drug Overview: Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol…addictive? Yes, a legalized substance such as alcohol, despite laws and regulations, is one of the most addictive substances in the United States. So much so, that as of today, alcohol is the most actively used addictive substance of any kind in the United States. Its sheer volume of recreational use makes it a troubling contributor to addicted patients across the country. In a 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) more than 85% of people ages 18 and older reported that they had drank alcohol at some point in their life, and over 25% reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month alone.

Charts showing 85.6 percent alcohol usage and 25.8 percent binge drinking in the U.S.A.

Alcohol is truly an epidemic which continually goes unnoticed, but just why is alcohol so addictive? The addiction to alcohol breaks down into these three core areas which we will explore further in this article:

  1. Physical Factors of Alcohol Addiction
  2. Psychological Factors of Alcohol Addiction
  3. Societal Factors of Alcohol Addiction

Why Is Alcohol Addictive? – Physical Factors

If you’re part of that 85% of America, we’ve likely all had a drink in our lives, but how much do we really know about the physical interaction that goes on in our bodies when we take that drink? Not much, but that’s why we’re here, to explain to you exactly what happens.

  • When someone drinks alcohol, it chemically stimulates the release of dopamine and endorphins which produce feelings of pleasure of satisfaction
  • One might think, “Feelings of pleasure and satisfaction sound like a good thing”, well, have you also heard of the saying “too much of a good thing might not be good for you”? That’s exactly the case when it comes to dopamine and endorphins. Consuming alcohol can cause physical and chemical changes to the brain. Your brains reward and pleasure centers become overloaded with stimulation, causing the brain to crave those same responses. This becomes a cycle which the brain forces the body to repeat over and over.
  • Making it more difficult for addicted patients, the brain wants you to consume more, while alcohol also inebriates the consumer, leading to poor impulses and decision making, creating further likelihood for binge consumption and relapse.
  • If that wasn’t enough, there’s still more. Genetics also play a role in the physical and chemical dependencies brought on by alcohol.  Each person is different from the next, and with those difference we each release different levels of pleasure chemicals in response to alcohol. Some people are already genetically predisposed to release large levels of dopamine and endorphins, making them even more susceptible to physical dependency.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive? – Psychological Factors

Compounded on top of the physical factors of alcohol addiction are the psychological factors. We learned how the chemical reaction leads to delayed reactions and poor decisions, but over time the psychological impacts builds off of this effect:

  • Alcohol is a learned behavior, which becomes routine over time. The brain is already sending signals to repeat instances of consumption as gratification, but a person’s thoughts and beliefs also become influenced over time.
  • Finally, at the root of many addictive occurrences and dependencies is stress. Stress can often contribute to alcohol addiction, with consumers leaning on that gratification from alcohol as an unhealthy way to cope with their underlying alcohol addiction.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive? – Societal Factors

The physical aspect of alcohol is a challenge, the psychological aspect is a challenge, but perhaps the most difficult factor is society itself and its acceptance of alcohol. No one condones excessive use of alcohol, and there are laws which state this loud and clear, but alcohol is still very much a legal substance. Not only is it the most accessible addictive substance in the country but the consumption of alcohol is promoted positively throughout the country as pass-time, happy hours, and social gatherings where partaking is more than accepted, it’s encouraged.

What Can You Do After Becoming Addicted To Alcohol

We covered why alcohol is addictive, but if you or a loved one is already facing a battle with alcohol addiction, you’re in need of solutions. There are several paths you might take, but the consistent common would be seeking professional treatment from an established facility. At Long Island Center for Recovery (LICR), our facility operates solely as an inpatient treatment facility for alcohol addiction treatment. This is by design as an inpatient facility give patients the opportunity to break away from the psychological and societal factors that make alcohol addiction so difficult across our daily lives. Our alcohol addiction treatment program aims to help clients identify, understand, and address the underlying issues that have caused their addiction, and once the root cause is discovered, the use of traditional and holistic treatment therapies help to strengthen clients understanding of their condition to help prevent future relapses.

We hope you found this information helpful, and if you need any additional assistance, or know someone in need, please reach out to us at 631-728-3100, and we’d be happy to assist you or your loved ones in any way possible.

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