Alcohol Addiction: Overview

By: Alcohol rehab

Although alcohol is readily available, legal and socially accepted, it is important to remember that it is still a drug. Regularly drinking causes changes in the way your brain functions, and alcoholics often need a drink the first thing in the morning to set them up for the day. Like any other addiction, a variety of elements drive people to drink, and it can cause a wide range of professional, personal and physical problems. Cirrhosis of the liver, which is caused by long term drinking, can be fatal. Treatment for alcohol has to take the physical and mental aspects of addiction into account to help people get sober.

People can get addicted to many different substances, from caffeine to heroin, and even activities, like gambling. This shows that addiction isn’t simply related to one substance; there is a larger, overarching psychological element which plays a role. Physical tolerance and dependence become problems, but the real crux of the issue is what drove the person to turn to the substance originally. This is why alcoholism is a serious condition that often requires extensive treatment.

There are a variety of reasons people might become addicted to alcohol. It is widely available, and it has several desirable effects, such as stress relief and removal of inhibitions. It’s extremely common for people to have a drink at the end of the day to calm down after work. This is the beginning of an addictive behaviour, because it uses the substance to combat an issue which is going to crop up throughout life. Alcohol is pretty much legal all over the world, so wherever the individual needs to socialise effectively or remove stress, alcohol provides an easy route to their goal.

When people pump their body full of a new substance, the brain doesn’t really know what to do. The brain’s ability to control motor function, make clear judgements and even control speech is affected. If the person continues to drink regularly, the brain has to change how it works to compensate. Eventually, it becomes so hard-wired for alcohol abuse that the person needs a morning drink to function “normally.” If they stop drinking, they get irritable, can’t sleep, anxious and even depressed.

The physical side to addiction is only part of the story. The numerous factors which drove them to addiction in the first place are extremely important. What these exact things are is difficult to determine, and there are many different models of addiction in use today. Alcoholics Anonymous created the twelve step program, which espouses a “disease” view of alcoholism. The alcoholic has an inherent predisposition to addiction, and they are entirely powerless to overcome the problem. Relapses are to be expected, and only a higher power (of some description) can help them get better.

The most widely use model is probably the social learning model. It departs from the “disease” model because it says that repeated rewards for behaviour drive people to repeat those behaviours. If a person has a drink after work and finds that it helps them calm down, then the behaviour is repeated because it produces the reward, stress relief. These behaviours are pursued, often regardless of consequences, until the individual is taught healthier coping mechanisms.

The disease model, social learning theory and other models like the choice model are attempts to understand a multi-faceted condition. The physical aspects of alcoholism present problems like an uncomfortable period of withdrawal, and alcohol is an easily accessible psychological crutch in many situations. Treating alcohol addiction often requires digging up events from the person’s childhood, and tackling an issue which pervades through many areas of their life. It might be easy to turn a blind eye because it’s a legal substance, but alcohol addiction can be extremely serious.

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| More was written by a team of qualified drug and alcohol counsellors headed by Jon Roberts. Jon is based in the UK midlands at Leicester.

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