Statistics and anecdotal evidence make it clear that alcohol is very addictive. Alcohol addiction is more common than addiction to other drugs. This is due in part to the ready availability of alcohol. Some studies have shown that 5% of people 12 years of age and older are battling alcohol use disorder.
Similar statistics show that 3/10 adults will struggle with alcohol use disorder during their lives. If you or someone you love is fighting alcohol addiction, you should know that you are not alone. You can also take comfort in knowing that there are evidence-based interventions that have helped millions of people break free from alcohol addiction, and they can help you.
How Addictive Is Alcohol?
Alcohol addiction is more prevalent than drug addiction. This in and of itself testifies to the addictive nature of alcohol. Some studies say that one out of every 12 Americans is battling alcohol use disorder.
One of the key factors is social acceptance. It is socially acceptable for adults over 21 to purchase and drink alcohol. It is more socially acceptable for adults to binge drink than it is for them to use illicit drugs. However, once alcohol use turns into addiction or a person develops alcohol use disorder, their behavior is no longer seen as socially acceptable.
Alcohol’s Addictive Characteristics and the Brain
Why is alcohol so addictive for some people but not for others? With most drugs, a person tries them, uses them regularly, and quickly becomes addicted. But that’s not the case for everybody when it comes to alcohol. Many people drink alcohol socially for decades and can control their alcohol use. For these people, it’s a challenge to understand how a person with alcohol use disorder can’t just stop and put down the bottle. The answer has a lot to do with how alcohol affects the brain of the alcoholic.
Endorphins are the reason why people become addicts. It doesn’t matter if they’re addicted to drugs, gambling, television, or any other substance or behavior. Endorphins make you feel good. When they are released, you feel relaxed and happy. Endorphins make the pain go away and anxiety disappear. When they are present in large quantities, they can make a person feel euphoric.
In the proper context, endorphins are how your body rewards you for and encourages you to continue with good behavior.
A few examples of healthy behaviors that produce endorphins include:
- Appropriate physical contact with others
- Receiving compliments for a job well done
It makes sense for your brain to reward you for doing positive things. Unfortunately, your brain cannot always distinguish between endorphin-producing acts that are good for you and those that are bad for you. Alcohol causes your body to produce endorphins. Your brain can’t distinguish this forced release from natural release.
So it starts to encourage you to continue to do the activities that caused the endorphins to be released in the first place. This is why a person addicted to alcohol has such intense cravings and feels that it is almost impossible to stop drinking. Their brain, the organ that controls thought, emotion, motivation, and action, is screaming at them and telling them to continue the endorphin-producing behavior.
Each time an alcoholic drinks, more endorphins are released, and their desire to drink is strengthened. Why do some people get addicted to alcohol and others do not? Most scientists believe that some people have an increased risk of addiction because their brains release higher levels of endorphins in response to drinking large amounts of alcohol compared to those who do not have a propensity towards alcoholism. Other factors come into play as well. But the brain’s endorphin response to alcohol consumption can indicate whether or not a person becomes addicted to alcohol.
Getting Help Breaking Free from Alcohol Addiction
If you are fighting alcohol addiction, it can feel like you are swimming against a powerful current. However, help is available. Evidence-based, holistic therapies are extremely effective in healing the mind and body of individuals battling alcohol abuse. Do you want to stop or reduce your drinking? Don’t try to quit cold turkey. Get help! Contact us today at 855-334-6120 to learn more.