At least once a day, the average American sees images that depict alcohol as a way to celebrate, relax, or toast a special moment. While many people can enjoy an occasional social drink, millions of others struggle with the shame and confusion of alcohol addiction.
Many may wonder why some people become addicted to alcohol and others do not. There are several factors that influence what makes alcohol addictive, including the physical and psychological impacts of the drug. Because of the way alcohol interacts with both the brain and body, it is considered a highly addictive substance.
Alcohol addiction can lead to a number of devastating consequences. Nearly 90,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.
The only way to change these numbers is to collectively gain a broader understanding of what exactly makes alcohol so addictive. If you or someone you love is currently battling alcohol addiction, there is help available. Vertava Health offer personalized alcohol rehab programs throughout the country.
Can You Be Physically Addicted To Alcohol?
Yes. Alcohol changes the way the brain’s communication pathways work. This drug can change a person’s mood, behavior, and physical abilities. Alcohol also causes a chemical reaction with the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. This stimulates the brain’s pleasure and reward center and causes endorphins to release.
Endorphins lead to feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and satisfaction. Some people’s brains produce higher levels of these hormones. Over time, the body may begin to crave this euphoric reaction.
People may begin to have intense cravings or lose the ability to control how much they drink. Heavy or frequent alcohol use can result in physical dependence. When this happens, a person’s body requires the drug in order to function properly.
People who are physically dependent on alcohol may display signs, including:
- memory blackouts (inability to recall events when drinking)
- shaky hands
- smelling of alcohol
- change in weight
- flushed or sweaty skin
- disrupted sleep pattern
- bloodshot eyes
- mood swings
- change in sex drive or ability
- dizziness or falling
- problems at work, home, or with the legal system
Can You Be Mentally Addicted To Alcohol?
Yes. Alcohol can lead to physical dependence as well as a psychological focus on the drug. When people use alcohol to mask unpleasant feelings, they may end up psychologically dependent on the substance. People who use alcohol to cope with anger or sadness may lose interest in other relaxation methods. Their focus becomes fixated on getting the next drink.
Alcoholism is often linked to mental health conditions. As many as one in five people who have a substance disorder also suffer from anxiety, depression, or both. Experiencing these conditions can be stressful, and may prompt a person to rely on alcohol as a way to feel better.
Signs of a psychological dependence on alcohol can also include:
- sneaking alcohol or lying about drinks
- drinking alone
- feelings of guilt or shame about drinking
- craving a drink early in the morning
- concerned comments from loved ones
- defensive attitude about alcohol
- feeling anxious about always having enough alcohol
Alcohol Dependence And Withdrawal
When a person is physically dependent on alcohol, they need the substance in order to function. Over time, many people need increased amounts of alcohol in order to get the same reaction (called having a “tolerance”).
If a person stops drinking suddenly, they could experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be both physical and psychological and can include tremors, sweating, seizures, or severe anxiety. The safest way to withdraw from alcohol is with the help of a medical detox program.
Many people continue drinking in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. They may feel afraid of facing life without alcohol. Fortunately, effective treatment models exist for those who suffer from alcohol addiction. At Vertava Health, we provide medical detox and customized treatment that caters to people of all ages, professions, and backgrounds.
Risk Factors For Alcohol Addiction
Not everyone who abuses alcohol will become addicted to the substance. However, there are certain factors that can influence a person’s chance of becoming addicted.
Some risk factors have to do with a person’s environment, such as peer pressure or time spent in jail. Others are inherited through genetics, including a family risk of alcohol or drug addiction.
Additional risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of becoming addicted to alcohol include:
- how frequently a person drinks
- amount a person drinks per day
- mental health conditions
- age the person began drinking
- unresolved trauma or emotional stress
- length of time the person has been drinking
- gender, age, and genetic factors
- family history of alcoholism
- the overall health of the individual
Finding Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
It can be difficult to understand alcohol abuse and addiction. Our culture is socially accepting of this substance, even though it kills thousands of Americans each year. While some people can drink moderately and never develop a problem, others will need help to stop drinking permanently.
Vertava Health provide rehab programs that focus on the whole individual. Our treatment facilities offer a blend of traditional counseling and adventure-based therapies, including expressive arts and adventure therapy. Patients engage in individual and group counseling, in order to develop skills like self-awareness, mindfulness, and personal goal setting.
Our treatment centers also have specialized programs for those who suffer from co-occurring disorders, like alcohol addiction and depression. It’s possible to recover from alcohol addiction and build a meaningful life in recovery.
To learn more about what makes alcohol addictive, or to explore treatment options near you, please contact a treatment specialist today.