Many people wonder how alcohol causes addiction and find it difficult to understand how a legal substance could possibly result in the harm associated with addiction. However, alcohol abuse is a widespread problem in the UK and many people who abuse this chemical substance either do not realise they are doing it or see nothing wrong with what they are doing. The Government has guidelines in place for the safe consumption of alcohol, which state that adults should drink no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week. This fourteen-unit allowance should be spread across the full week, with a few days kept alcohol-free.
While there are many who do stick to this allowance without much thought, there are others who regularly exceed it, again without much thought. Some individuals drink their full week’s allowance in one binge-drinking session at the weekend. Others drink a small amount of alcohol every day, which will take them over. Then there are those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol on a regular basis and who might be aware that they are drinking too much but still do not realise the full extent of the harm that their alcohol consumption could be causing.
Despite being a legal substance, alcohol is a chemical drug and one that can cause considerable harm if consumed in large quantities. In fact, when Public Health England conducted a review into the UK’s alcohol guidelines back in 2015, they issued a statement saying that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption that would prevent against certain illnesses such as cancer. The truth is that the only way to avoid alcohol-related illnesses is to avoid alcohol completely.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
It is hard for some people to understand how alcohol causes addiction. After all, it is legal, so it cannot be as harmful as illegal drugs, for example, right? Wrong!
Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in the UK and contributes to poor health, relationship troubles, poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness, and premature death – among other things. Abuse of the substance can lead to an addiction that can ultimately destroy the life of the person abusing it. But how does this happen? And why are some individuals affected while others are not? These are questions that many people want answers to. Let’s start with how alcohol addiction develops.
Alcohol affects the pleasure and reward centres of the brain. In some people though, it can ‘hijack’ them to make them ‘want’ more. Addiction usually begins when a tolerance to alcohol develops. This means that you are not getting the same pleasurable feelings from alcohol that you once did. It happens because the body adjusts to the alcohol and releases fewer dopamine chemicals when you drink. Dopamine is the name of the chemical that makes you feel good.
If you are not achieving the feelings you desire when you drink alcohol, you may be tempted to drink more. The more you drink, the better you might feel. If this happens on a regular basis, your body will come to expect alcohol and crave it when the effects wear off. This is when a physical dependence occurs and is usually a precursor to a full-blown addiction.
Once you have become addicted to alcohol, your use of it will begin to interfere with daily life. You will be unable to control your consumption and you will drink even when doing so is causing harm to yourself and others around you. You may also find that once you start drinking, you struggle to stop. These are all signs of an alcohol addiction.
Why Are Some People Affected by Alcohol Addiction When Others Are Not?
Not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop an addiction to it. In fact, most of those who drink alcohol never have a problem, other than occasionally drinking too much and suffering a hangover. So why do some people develop an addiction to alcohol when others do not?
This is a question that many alcoholics ponder on. They wonder why they have found themselves in a situation where they cannot control their alcohol consumption. The truth is that there is no single reason for alcoholism developing. There are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of one becoming an alcoholic, but even having every single risk factor is no guarantee that it will occur.
It is just not possible to tell why some individuals become alcoholics while others do not. Nevertheless, scientists believe that in some people, alcohol can cause a surge of dopamine to be released, meaning these individuals derive more pleasure from it. Alcohol also hijacks their reward centres so that they want it again and again.
Having a family history of alcoholism is one of the risk factors associated with alcohol addiction. You might think that being brought up in a home where alcoholism was a factor would be enough to prevent the same problems from happening again, but the opposite is true. Living with alcoholic parents, for example, makes your risk of developing addiction problems yourself higher.
Another risk factor is emotional trauma. Traumatic experiences can often be a trigger for substance abuse. Those who have dealt with difficult situations may try to self-medicate with alcohol. They believe that because alcohol can numb the senses, it makes them feel better. Maybe it does for a time, but it will only provide temporary relief. Continued abuse of alcohol will lead to more problems instead.
The Dangers of Alcohol Addiction
It may be hard to understand how alcohol causes addiction, but the reality is that it can destroy the life of the abuser. When alcohol is abused, it can lead to a host of problems, not only for the person abusing it, but also for those around him or her. Alcohol abuse also affects communities as well as society as a whole.
Alcohol has been linked to hundreds of illnesses. It is a substance that affects almost every single cell in the body and those who drink it to excess are risking both their mental and physical health. In the short-term, problems can include:
- slurred speech
- impaired judgement.
However, long-term abuse of alcohol can lead to problems such as:
- high blood pressure
- liver disease
- heart disease
- anxiety disorder
In addition to the above health problems, alcohol addiction can result in relationships problems. It is difficult for alcoholics to maintain healthy relationships with the people around them, especially when alcohol has become the most important thing in their life.
Alcoholism often destroys entire families. Parents, siblings, spouses, and children suffer when one member of the family is addicted to alcohol. In some cases, relationships will be destroyed beyond repair. Moreover, many family members will suffer emotionally because of a loved one’s illness. Children are particularly affected, and many will struggle with their emotions and feelings in later life.
As you might imagine, finances are another area that is negatively impacted by addiction. Funding an alcohol habit requires money, and as the illness progresses, so too does the need for more money. When alcohol addiction is severe, it can lead to financial difficulties and even poverty. When every penny is spent on alcohol, other things will be forgotten about and family life can become quite difficult.
Some people will find themselves in dire situations where they are forced to take drastic measures just to fund their habit. They might beg or steal from loved ones or may even begin stealing from strangers to get the substance they crave.
How to Beat an Alcohol Addiction
Although an alcohol addiction can have disastrous consequences, there is light at the end of the tunnel as it is an issue that can be overcome. Through a programme of detox and rehabilitation, it is possible to say goodbye to alcohol abuse once and for all. Nonetheless, you will need to be committed to a programme of recovery to have any chance of success.
With a detox, you will break the physical cycle of addiction, which will give you the clear mind and body you will need to tackle rehabilitation. Rehab can be an emotional process where you delve deep into your past to get to the root cause of your addictive behaviour. It is vital that you are not under the influence of alcohol when you begin rehab as you will be unable to think clearly.
For help with alcohol addiction, please contact us here at Oasis Recovery. We can provide you with information about how to get started on the road to recovery. We offer exceptional programmes and are staffed by a team of dedicated professionals who will work tirelessly to help all our patients get well.
If you are ready to begin a substance-free life, we can help you do it. Please call us today for more information.