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Is Alcohol Addictive?

The question: Why is alcohol addictive? To begin with, any substance or activity that alters our state of mind has the possibility of being addictive and alcohol is obviously one of these.  But, why is alcohol addictive?  Some would say that one reason alcohol is so addictive is the fact that it is considered an “acceptable” social activity, however even a social drinker frequently finds they have established an alcohol addiction after frequent weekend drinking sessions. Not only is alcohol addictive, but long-term, habitual usage is also associated with hypertension, stroke, and sudden death.

An individual or group of people may try to reason or wonder why is alcohol addictive or try to rationalize an addiction to alcohol if he or she is only drinking it to advance their current circumstances.  They really have no clue that the stages of alcoholism begin with this very quandary. They soon find out that, in the first phase of alcohol addiction, social drinking no longer becomes an activity but a means of changing or altering an emotional state. They drink because of the “high” they get from using alcohol, letting go of inhibitions, or as an escape from their reality. For instance, early in the disease process a person will start to depend on the mood-altering effects of alcohol. At the same time, while they are depending on the effects of alcohol to sooth their ills, their bodies are becoming dependent on the alcohol to function normally. Also, a slow and gradual increase in tolerance develops. This is another observable characteristic of the first stage of alcohol addiction, meaning that increased amounts of alcohol are needed for the individual to feel the same effects.

The question "Is alcohol addictive" arises casually in a social setting with friends, but when we talk about alcohol consumption today and what comes to mind is any alcohol-containing beverage. However, it should be noted that the debate has never been about wine or beer but alcohol. Alcoholic beverages have evolved scientifically over the years that they have become so refined and as a result the percentage of alcohol has greatly increased. So, it should be noted that the alcohol content in the average beer has increased to as much as 12 percent in some brands.

“Is alcohol addictive and does it cause severe cognitive impairment when abused”? Well, DUH! It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to notice how people act after downing a few beers during a football game, having too much wine at dinner, or that “one for the road” at the local bar. This is pretty much a rhetorical question. That said, consuming vast quantities of alcohol can lead some people into the downward spiral of addiction, not being able to stop on their own, and constantly looking for that next drink. Other than these people suffering from an addictive personality, there is a reason for this. The substance contained in alcohol which causes feelings of euphoria, among other things, arrives at the control center of the brain in about 30 seconds (that’s pretty fast). Also, alcohol disrupts dopamine receptors in the brain and is thought to stimulate the “reward” pathway. Alcohol also effects the release of specific types of endorphins throughout the brain which are believed to effect emotions and moods. The alcohol-dopamine connection is what is thought as causing the addiction, and with this, the brain begins to have a dependence on alcohol for the production of endorphins.

In essence, is alcohol addictive? Yes. But why is alcohol addictive?  This is the tricky part and as mentioned, alcohol is quickly assimilated in the brain and bloodstream. It alters our conscious state and affects our reward pathway. Is alcohol addictive? Yes, but people with addictive personalities can also become addicted to knitting. It all has to do with what makes us feel good; what gives us a sense of accomplishment or achievement. Activities such as skydiving, skiing, or even writing can be addicting as well.  However, as far as why is alcohol addictive, there are still obvious and well documented symptoms and progression of alcoholism, and although many can enjoy an occasional social drink, those prone to addiction should try to avoid these situations.


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