Alcohol statistics are shocking. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2019, almost 15 million Americans, ages 12 and above had alcohol use disorder. Of those 15 million Americans who have alcohol use disorder, more than 7% of them have received treatment in the past year. There were more than 10,000 alcohol related driving fatalities.
Despite being one of the most addictive substances on the planet, alcohol is also one of the most socially acceptable mind-altering substances on the planet. As a result, alcohol is a very peculiar substance.
Kids could watch cartoon characters chugging a bottle of beer, beer commercials can be watched during the Super Bowl, mom and dad will drink a glass of wine during dinner, dad will give us our first sip of beer when we are barely in elementary school. Yet, this substance is one of the most deadly and addictive on the planet.
Alcohol is so addictive simply because it is legal and so accessible. You could go out and score some heroin, but you run the risk of spending the next few years in jail. Alcohol is a legal and far less expensive substitute. Read this article to learn exactly why alcohol is so addictive. The article will also explore what causes someone to become an alcoholic.
In the simplest terms, alcohol addiction is a physical or mental dependence to alcohol. Unlike illegal drugs, it is not so easy to acknowledge an alcohol addiction. After all, one has been drinking with family and friends since high school. They may not see anything wrong with drinking more often and drinking by themselves – clear indicators of addiction.
In order to understand why alcohol is so addictive, one must understand the devastating social trends of alcohol and one must see alcohol for what it truly is. So many people equate alcohol with recreational activities. It is difficult for some to spot threats of addiction and destruction in something they consider fun.
In fact, alcohol addiction can become socially acceptable as well. If you and the circle of friends that you drink with, are all alcoholics, it is even more unlikely that you will acknowledge that you have become an alcoholic. You won’t see anything wrong with your drinking behavior if everyone else drinks similar amounts.
Addiction is similar with all drugs. After one consumes the drug, it enters the brain and disrupts the natural arrangement of chemicals. The disruption varies in drugs. For example, cocaine increases levels of dopamine in the brain, producing a flood of euphoria. Heroin enters the brain and binds to opioid receptors regarding pain and pleasure, and those that control the heart rate. Drug Abuse
Alcohol has a very complex effect on the brain. The substance will block signals between neurons, producing intoxication. The effects of intoxication might be slurred speech and a foggy memory. As one becomes tolerant to alcohol, they are forced to drink more to achieve the same levels of inebriation.
After one’s tolerance to alcohol has risen, the drinker may experience disturbing physical withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, or an elevated heart rate, or anxiety when they are not drinking. These symptoms can occur a mere few hours after one has had their last drink. The only way to squash these distressing symptoms is to drink more. This vicious cycle is how anyone – regardless of race, age, and creed – can become dependent on alcohol.
A “craving” is a sensation or a thought or a feeling that urges one to drink. There is no way to classify such cravings. Anything could remind someone of drinking and trigger a craving. There are two sorts of triggers that could cause someone to crave alcohol.
- External triggers
An external trigger is a person, place, thing that could remind a person of drinking.
- Internal triggers
An internal trigger may be more difficult to spot, because they simply can just “pop up” in one’s mind. If a mind stops to deliberate on it, which it usually does, the trigger will become more persuasive, quickly developing into a craving.
One can feel a craving to drink when something good happens, and they feel compelled to go out and celebrate. On the flip side, when something bad happens, cravings could arise in an attempt to soothe the situation.
Craving alcohol is normal. For starters, if one drinks with their friends and has a good time, and has learned to associate alcohol with fun, they may frequently feel compelled to drink. In a more scientific explanation, alcohol activates neurons in the brain responsible for pleasure. A natural instinct of humans is to want to prolong and intensify feelings of euphoria.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol can be a very difficult addiction to spot, largely because it is legal. One could attain alcohol at the local grocery store, one could drink during meals alongside loved ones, and one could hide their intoxication as well as their cravings. Because drinking is socially accepted, one could simply get used to seeing a friend or loved one with a drink in their hands and never even question that addictive behavior is occurring.
Ever since you could remember, you have seen your uncle with a flask in his hand. After a while, the sight just becomes normal. Is he drinking more often? Is he drinking more alcohol? Such details are insignificant.
However, someone who knows what to look for and who is looking in the right places could distinguish dangerous signs of alcoholism.
Binge drinking, for men, is consuming five or more drinks within two hours. For women, binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks within two hours.
Blacking out occurs when someone drinks so much alcohol that they may suffer amnesia. During a blackout, a person may perform regular actions like walking or talking, but just not remember doing so.
Excessive drinking will produce some inevitable physical traits that are easy to spot. Someone who drinks excessively may have yellow eyes and skin, as a result of liver damage. If they spend a lot of their time drunk, they will not have much of an appetite. Thus, they may be skinny. Hardcore drinkers may look older than they actually are, with wrinkles and brittle hair.
In addition, physical factors of alcohol addiction could be the physical changes discussed earlier that excessive alcohol consumption can do to the brain. An alcoholic who wants to stop drinking will physically be unable to, as a result of the rewiring of their brain.
Psychological factors of alcohol addiction are psychological conditions that could increase the chances that someone will become an alcoholic. People who suffer from mental disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia are more likely to turn to alcohol to numb their mental pain.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has an extremely helpful questionnaire on their site. It is the current version of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. By answering a few simple questions, one can determine if they possess symptoms of Alcohol use Disorder (AUD).
According to a study in JAMA Psychiatry, one in eight American adults meets the diagnostic criteria to possess AUD. That means that 12.7% of our population has AUD! Be sure to fill this out as soon as possible!
The questionnaire is composed of statements such as,
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
- More than once, wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
- Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
- Found that drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job problems? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends? (2)
There are many more questions. When the questionnaire is complete, the person filling it out will note how many of the questions they recognized. The results will indicate the level of AUD, ranging from mild to intense.
If you are reading this article, you must be concerned for either yourself or a loved one. Alcoholism is one of the most dangerous addictions around. Because it is legal and socially accepted it could be too late until you realize that someone you love has become alcohol dependent.
Pick up the phone and call Makana Path today. Makana Path is a rehabilitation facility that offers state-of-the-art detox. With semi-private rooms, cozy common spaces, and a fully stocked kitchen, Makana Path is designed to feel like home.