What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol consumption is largely normalized because it is often the staple of many social gatherings. Holidays, major life events, and other moments of celebration frequently use alcohol to have fun, making it feel impossible to avoid.
Alcohol is used as a way to let loose, reduce inhibitions, and lessen feelings of anxiety or stress. Although a person may believe that alcohol is a tool that can be used for positive gain, it has the power to damage a person’s health and relationships.
Alcoholism develops when a person consumes alcohol so frequently that their body becomes dependent on it to feel normal. This causes a person to prioritize it over everything else, regardless of the consequences this may have. A person’s need to drink outweighs everything else, which can result in loss of employment, financial trouble, damaged relationships, and other problems. Even with the knowledge that alcohol consumption is the source of many issues, a person may be unable to stop drinking.
What Influences the Development of Alcohol Addiction?
While the exact cause of alcohol addiction is not known, there are several risk factors that may indicate whether or not a person has a greater chance of developing a dependency.
Some of these are genetic while others are environmental. These include:
- Having a family member who struggles with alcoholism
- Living in an environment that normalizes excessive alcohol consumption
- Experiencing peer pressure to drink, especially at a young age
- Having a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety
- Regularly overconsuming alcohol
- High levels of stress
- Extremely low self-esteem or feelings of self-worth
Alcoholism can cause changes in the brain which make a person feel higher levels of pleasure from drinking. This encourages a person to keep consuming alcohol even if it is causing harm. Over time, a person develops tolerance and resistance to the effects of alcohol. They must consume greater quantities in order to achieve the same effects. Eventually, a person no longer derives pleasure from drinking, and instead, must drink to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can range in severity, with some being mildly uncomfortable to others becoming lift-threatening and dangerous.
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Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction can be identified by physical, emotional, and behavioral changes. While some of these symptoms can exist without the presence of an addiction, the more of these that are observed, the greater chance that an addiction has developed. Symptoms of alcohol addiction may include:
- Having a high tolerance to alcohol
- Drinking alone
- Poor eating habits
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Making excuses to drink
- Being unable to regulate how much they consume
- Continuing to drink in spite of problems that develop directly related to overconsumption
- Prioritizing alcohol consumption over other responsibilities
- Exhibiting anger or becoming defensive when asked about drinking habits
- Experiencing cravings for alcohol
- Blacking out or not remembering what happens after drinking
- Experiencing tremors after drinking
- Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms such as shaking or vomiting when without alcohol for a longer period of time
- Developing illnesses related to overconsumption of alcohol
A physical exam and professional assessment can confirm the development of an alcohol use disorder and can identify the extent of damage caused. Blood work and a check on liver function can typically reveal what is happening inside the body.
Treating Alcohol Addiction
Treatment for alcohol addiction varies depending on its severity and the extent of damage caused.
Regardless of where a person is currently, the recovery process must start with detox and abstinence. This aspect of recovery is crucial because it sets the stage for a person’s journey in treatment. Withdrawal can be dangerous and it is recommended that this is completed under medical supervision in a facility. Medications may be used to help ease the withdrawal process and treat co-occurring disorders.
Because of how easy it is to obtain alcohol, recovering on your own can be difficult. For most, it is recommended that treatment take place in an inpatient setting in order to reduce exposure and minimize risk of relapse. Until the coping mechanisms and life skills that support sobriety are developed, countless situations can put a person’s sobriety in jeopardy, especially in early recovery.
Everyone’s journey in recovery will be different. Depending on how long the problem has persisted, the severity of health complications will vary. It is possible to develop a wide array of physical and mental health issues related to overconsumption of alcohol, but treatment can help address some of these issues. The most effective way to avoid developing a dependency on alcohol is to minimize your intake and act quickly once you recognize signs that a problem may be developing. Although alcohol is legal and readily available in many venues, when misused, it can be incredibly dangerous and produce life-threatening consequences.
If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.