Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States and around the world. For many, drinking alcohol is a social norm and considered acceptable, even when too much is consumed. However, when a person develops a problem with alcohol, he or she may experience the following:
- Inability to uphold responsibilities at work, home, or school
- Legal and/or social problems
- Drinking in dangerous situations (such as while driving)
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, approximately 17.6 million adults abuse alcohol or are physically dependent on it. This statistic does not include those who binge drink, which can also lead to the development of alcohol abuse or dependence.
When an individual is abusing alcohol, he or she is no longer in control of his or her behavior. This occurs because the brain is unable to send the appropriate messages to areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, learning, and cognition. More specifically, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that manages the brain’s reward system. When alcohol is abused, dopamine is released, causing the user to feel pleasurable sensations of relaxation and euphoria.
Additionally, consuming alcohol also blocks the receptor known as glutamate, which results in a decrease in anxiety. Therefore, an individual who is feeling sad, anxious, or depressed can easily turn to alcohol and begin blocking those feelings because of the chemical response it produces in the brain.
When alcohol is being abused, an individual’s ability to control his or her behavior is limited. This is due to the fact that the presence of alcohol prevents the proper neurotransmitters from reaching the prefrontal cortex in the brain, where decision-making is done. The prefrontal cortex is also responsible for regulating emotions, which means that alcohol can hinder an individual’s ability to demonstrate emotional control. Instead, the part of the brain known as the dorsal striatum, which works to promote motivation and habit formation, takes over. This is believed to be one of the main biological influences on the development of alcohol addiction.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Less than 10% of individuals within the United States who are addicted to alcohol get professional treatment. Sadly, this is often caused by a number of factors, such as unwillingness to get help due to negative stigma and an inability to afford proper care.
Those who are trapped within the deadly cycle of alcohol addiction often feel stuck in their use because they crave social acceptance, a way to cope with emotional distress, and/or are self-medicating themselves. Regardless of why an individual is abusing alcohol, it is imperative to know that effective treatment that includes effective detox, treatment services, and sober living are available for those who finally want to let go of their alcohol addiction for good.
A quality treatment center will provide an individual with a unique treatment plan that is designed to meet his or her needs so that he or she can achieve long-term recovery and live a sober and more satisfying life.