Why Is Alcohol Addictive? A Study of One of the Most Infamous Drugs

Shame is one of the most painful feelings you can experience. Negative feelings are often a direct reflection of how we view ourselves in the world. Many alcoholics carry around shameful feelings about being unable to quit drinking on their own.

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol, you’re not alone. Did you know that 18 million American adults suffer from some type of alcoholism? Alcohol abuse can range from mild to moderate and can eventually become severe.

Society falsely believes that you can stop drinking by just having the willpower to make healthy choices. However, the truth is that those who have substance use disorders do not have a choice. Read on to find out the answer to the question, “Why is alcohol addictive?”

Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

There are different physical and psychological factors that contribute to alcohol addiction. Individuals who abuse alcohol for a long period of time will need to have a drink just to feel “normal” again.

If you’re considering having an intervention for a friend or family member, it helps to understand the different types of addictions. When someone is having trouble being happy without alcohol, they might have a psychological addiction.

The two types of addiction are:

  • Psychological
  • Physical

If someone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms after a short period of not drinking, they may have a physical addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms can present themselves in many different ways. Common withdrawal symptoms include being nauseous, having trouble digesting food, anxiety, and shakiness. More severe withdrawal symptoms can also include problems with hallucinations and even seizures.

During the detox process, vitamins and supplements can help minimize some of the physical withdrawal symptoms. Next, we’ll explore how alcohol interacts with your brain once it’s in your system.

About Neurotransmitters

Why is alcohol addictive? Well, the simple answer is that your brain learns to need this substance after you use it for a while. Your body has an intricate system for sending messages. Our nerves are constantly communicating with each other to carry out bodily functions. 

The chemicals that help your nerves deliver their messages are called neurotransmitters. Everyday functions like breathing, blinking, and swallowing would be impossible without these chemicals. There are two kinds of neurotransmitters in your body. One type of “messenger chemical” works to help you receive inhibitory messages, while the other expresses excitatory messages.

Inhibitory neurotransmitters work to help keep your brain calm. When you feel at peace, it’s because of the inhibitory messages your brain is receiving. However, when you feel alert, focused, and ready to learn, it’s a result of excitatory neurotransmitters stimulating your brain.

About Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in your body. When you drink alcohol, your body increases it’s GABA production. That means your brain will become intensely inhibited. Your body becomes so at ease that simple tasks like walking, talking, and making memories become difficult — if not impossible.

The increased levels of GABA work to sedate your brain. The more alcohol that’s consumed, the more severely your brain will become inhibited.

After abusing alcohol for a few months or years, the brain begins to adapt to this abnormal state. In an attempt to survive, your brain starts to view the increased inhibition levels as normal.

Since your brain thinks the abnormal state is normal, it ramps up activity with your excitatory neurotransmitters. As a result, you’ll begin to develop a tolerance to alcohol. Individuals will have to drink larger amounts to feel the same calming effects they used to achieve after only having one or two drinks.

About Dopamine

Dopamine is the other neurotransmitter alcohol has an effect on. Whenever your brain wants to reward you with pleasure, it releases dopamine. Dopamine helps you with pleasurable activities like eating, sleeping, and sex.

When you consume alcohol, your brain will release more dopamine. That’s because your brain is happy with the effects of alcohol. It notices you are calmer and happier and wants to reward this peaceful state of being with dopamine.

After abusing alcohol for a long period of time, you’ll damage your dopamine transporter and receptor sites. Your brain will begin to produce less and less dopamine over time. As a result, you’ll feel the need to drink larger amounts to receive the same pleasurable results.

About Endorphins

Whenever you experience pain, your body naturally releases endorphins. Your body’s central nervous system is responsible for creating the tiny pain-fighting molecules.

Endorphins are mainly intended to help counteract physical pain. However, endorphins also counteract psychological pain by creating a state of euphoria.

Have you ever felt amazing after a long, sweaty workout? Chances are that during the workout, you were pushing your body to new and sometimes painful limits. In response to your discomfort, your brain released endorphins to help you feel better.

Different parts of your brain release endorphins. The two areas of your brain alcohol will release endorphins into are the orbitofrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens.

Both of these areas in your brain affect decision-making and addictive behavior. When your body releases endorphins into the nucleus accumbens, you’ll experience a high level of pleasure. The alcohol is able to trick your brain into believing drinking is a healthy and pleasurable activity.

Your brain will become used to receiving a rush of pleasure accompanied by a feeling of being at ease. Once your brain gets used to feeling high levels of pleasure, it begins to crave the effects of alcohol.

Overcoming Alcohol Misuse and Addiction Through Treatment

Those who suffer from alcohol misuse and addiction should seek help immediately. Many people find that the very best option is to get treatment at a professional detox and rehab facility. So, if you are struggling with the effects of an alcohol use disorder, it is important to consider the treatment options that are available to you.

About The Treatment Process: Levels of Care

When you begin the treatment process, you will likely start with a detoxification process. An alcohol detox program can help you to safely end alcohol use and begin overcoming your physical dependence.

Throughout the detox process, the medical team at your treatment center will assist you during withdrawal as symptoms will be difficult to manage without help. Also, detox can equip you with the ability to begin shifting your focus from alcohol use to recovery.

After going through detox, you may begin getting treatment through a residential program. Also called an inpatient program, a residential addiction treatment program is sometimes an essential part of the recovery process.

Residential rehab programs can be very helpful for those who are recovering from severe addictions. While in an inpatient program, recovering individuals live at a rehab facility instead of at home. This allows them to concentrate on their recovery without having to immerse themselves in an unhealthy lifestyle, which may be present at home. Residential treatment also provides a way for people to surround themselves with like-minded individuals who are also striving toward sobriety.

You may also go through a recovery management program, in which you can develop and carry out methods and skills that will help you to avoid relapse. Recovery does not end when treatment is over. In fact, some may say that treatment is only the first step. In any case, however, it is important to develop relapse prevention skills, gain support, set recovery goals, and establish a sense of commitment. This is where the recovery management program comes into play.

The Importance of Getting Professional Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Many people find themselves wondering if it’s really necessary to get treatment for alcohol misuse. Some individuals feel that they can stop using this substance without getting any kind of treatment. But, while some may opt to quit using alcohol “cold turkey”, this option often proves to be ineffective and even dangerous in some cases.

If you are struggling with alcoholism or any other form of alcohol-related problems, the best thing you could possibly do is ask for help. By getting professional assistance, you gain the ability to safely and comfortably end alcohol use without having to fear the negative effects of withdrawal and recovery. 

While in treatment, you will have constant access to medical and clinical professionals and resources. So, it’s best to seek help sooner than later.

Recovering Alcohol Abuse With Help From Coastal Detox

Ending substance abuse and dependence can be extremely difficult. It’s not easy to stop using alcohol after you’ve used it in excess for a while. Your brain and body are likely to depend on this substance by now, causing you to feel unable to function without using alcohol.

You may feel alone in your struggle, knowing that family and friends might not understand what you’re experiencing. This loneliness can lead to dangerous results, including increased alcohol use. 

Alcohol cravings can be sudden and unexpected or drag on throughout the entire day. High levels of stress and previous substance abuse can intensify the urge to drink. Social aspects and genetics also play a role in answering the question, “Why is alcohol addictive?”

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, you might wonder what you can do to end this problem. Here at Coastal Detox, we are more than happy to help answer all of your questions about how to recover from drug and alcohol addictions. We strive to be Florida’s most comfortable drug and alcohol detox center, offering nothing short of excellence and understanding as we serve our clients.

Our goal is to provide you or your loved ones with soothing, holistic therapies in a safe and peaceful atmosphere. All of our treatments are medication-assisted to help eliminate the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.

You can learn about the addiction treatment services we have to offer by using our contact us page. One of our compassionate team members will be happy to tell you about our different detox programs

There’s no need to wait any longer to get the help you need. Allow us to help you begin the journey to a life that is free from alcoholism. Our compassionate team looks forward to walking beside you!

Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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