How Addictive Is Alcohol? Real-World Impact On Your Brain and Body

When we consider addiction, many of us think about illicit drugs and backstreet deals without realizing that, while drug addiction is undeniably a problem, it’s nowhere near as prevalent as alcohol. The equally damaging, but more ‘socially acceptable’ alcohol – many of us don’t think twice about it. So how addictive is alcohol?

This disconnect is so severe that alcohol has long slipped under the radar as one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances in the world. Yet, while many individuals might not be surprised to hear that 56% of adults in the US consume some form of alcohol every month, this issue becomes far more worrying when you consider that 1-in-4 adults also report some form of binge drinking monthly. Further to this, as many as 14 million adults are thought to be abusing alcohol in the US, many of whom are highly functioning individuals with easy access to a substance that, in the long term, can cause a significant mental and physical impact. 

Unfortunately, while it’s possible to buy alcohol from behind any bar and from most stores, many individuals don’t see drinking as the true problem that it is, let alone consider seeking treatment for an escalating drinking problem. However, with alcohol addiction on the rise and its impacts potentially devastating, not just to addicts, but also to their families, this is an issue that needs addressing and fast. To start that process, we’re going to consider how addictive alcohol is, and its real-world impact on both your brain and body when drinking grows out of control.

How Addictive Is Alcohol?

By depressing the central nervous system and neurotransmitter inhibitors, drinking even small quantities of alcohol can create a kind of high that’s accompanied by increased feelings of self-worth, notably improved confidence levels, and a general feeling of well-being. As many as 33% of Americans who experience these effects either in social or private settings go on to develop not just an addiction, but a physical dependency on alcohol and the way that it makes them feel. 

This growing dependency is especially problematic considering that, the more an individual drinks, the more they need to drink to achieve the same benefits. As consumption rates increase, detox periods become far harder to manage, facilitating negative moods that then cause users to drink more, perpetuating a negative cycle of addiction.

Alcohol And The Body

Regularly drinking alcohol can impact the body in a range of ways including:

  • Weight gain
  • Weakening or shrinkage of the heart
  • Liver damage
  • Stomach ulcers/cancer
  • And more

Alcohol is also one of the only substances from which withdrawal can prove fatal by putting immense strain on the body if drinking suddenly stops. This is why professional treatment is such an essential aspect of alcohol recovery, especially as individuals attempting to detox alone can experience seizures, strokes, and even heart attacks. 

Alcohol And The Brain

While the addictive qualities of alcohol often display in physical symptoms, alcohol addiction largely impacts the brain, where chemical changes can be noted after even short periods of heavy drinking. In cases of extreme addiction, evidence also shows notable structural changes in the brain which, according to the Butler Center for Research, can lead to memory problems, slowed reflexes, and even potential damage to brain cells during withdrawal after long-term alcohol use. 

This is perhaps not surprising considering that even one night of heavy alcohol use can lead to blackouts, but it’s the long-term impact of alcohol dependency across neurotransmitters that’s especially worrying. Drinking is especially known to release a rush of something known as GABA, a neurotransmitter that creates those feel-good vibes. Unfortunately, a depletion of GABA is also responsible for low feelings and physical difficulties after a heavy session. When users are experiencing this depletion regularly, this, along with other alcohol-related brain activity can lead to a range of worrying neurological issues including neurotoxicity, ‘burnout’ of neurotransmitters, and brain shrinkage.

The Importance Of Treatment

The physical and mental impact of alcoholism can be extreme, and both drinking and withdrawal can prove fatal for patients who don’t seek the professional treatment they need to truly recover. Effective treatment should especially focus not only on withdrawal itself but also on long-term coping mechanisms and an understanding of the reasons why an individual chooses to drink in the first place. This is the path to long-term recovery that can beat both aspects of alcohol addiction. If you think that you or a loved one could benefit from this informed, reliable approach, then don’t hesitate to contact us at Findlay Recovery Center today. 

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