What Drives Alcohol Addiction?

It is true that not everyone who drinks alcohol will become an alcoholic. In fact, most people who drink it will never end up having a problem, other than occasionally drinking more than they should and then suffering a hangover the following day. But there are some individuals who allow their use of alcohol to spiral out of control and who then end up with severe addictions. Why do some people develop alcohol problems and others do not though? What drives alcohol addiction?

The Causes of Alcohol Addiction

When we ask what drives alcohol addiction, we really want to know what causes it. What causes a person to go from enjoying alcohol in moderation with family and friends to becoming consumed by it and having an overwhelming need to drink?

Unfortunately, this is not a question that has a black and white answer. The truth is that there is no single cause of alcoholism for everyone. Moreover, no one can know for sure what the exact cause of their drinking is. For some, it may be a combination of factors that has led them to drink.

You may have heard the saying ‘drowning your sorrows’ with alcohol. This came from the fact that many people choose to self-medicate with alcohol when they are struggling with their emotions. It may be that they are feeling upset or sad about a particular event or are trying to block out painful memories.

Alcohol can provide temporary relief and may help to make some individuals feel better about their own personal problems. Nevertheless, drinking alcohol regularly to provide relief from problems can actually lead to greater problems. It could lead to a crippling addiction developing.

There are many reasons people drink alcohol in the first place. Some do so out of curiosity at a young age because they are interested to find out what it is like for themselves. The majority of adults drink alcohol socially because it is the ‘done thing’.

Nonetheless, what causes some to develop an addiction to alcohol? It is impossible to pinpoint one single reason, but there are several risk factors said to increase the chances of it happening. Having a family history of addiction is one such risk, for example.

Living in a home with an alcoholic, you might think that your chances of developing an alcohol addiction yourself would be quite slim. After all, you have seen first-hand the damage that alcoholism can cause so why would you ever want to repeat the cycle? In fact, children of alcoholic parents have a substantial risk of developing the problem themselves when older. It may be that they have inherited genes that make them more prone to developing an addiction, or it could be that they are simply familiar with the idea of using alcohol to solve their problems.

Those who begin drinking alcohol at an early age also have a risk for addiction. This is said to happen because they become comfortable with drinking and their tolerance levels naturally increase over time.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?

When thinking about what drives alcohol addiction, it is also common to wonder how it happens. Just having the risk factors does not mean you are guaranteed to develop an addiction if you drink alcohol. The truth is that in some people alcohol can hijack the pleasure and reward centres of their brains, making it far more likely for them to develop a physical dependence.

The UK Government’s guidelines for safe alcohol consumption state that adults should drink no more than fourteen units of alcohol each week. These units should be spread over the course of the week and there should be a few days kept alcohol-free.

Although most people automatically keep within these guidelines without even thinking about it, there are others who regularly drink more than they should. There are some who drink more than fourteen units in one day and others who drink far more than fourteen units every week. Some individuals drink alcohol every day while others binge drink at the weekend.

What we do know is that when a person drinks alcohol it stimulates the brain’s pleasure centres. Dopamine chemicals are released, making the person feel good. In some people, the reward centres of the brain are over-stimulated, making them feel the need to drink alcohol again and again.

The more alcohol that a person drinks though, the more the body adapts to its presence. This results in fewer dopamine chemicals being released and the person feeling as though he or she is not achieving the desired effects from the same amount of alcohol as before. The temptation, then, to drink more alcohol to achieve these effects can be quite strong.

When a person develops an increased tolerance for alcohol, he or she may need to drink more of it to get the feeling he/she desires. But drinking more alcohol on a regular basis causes the body to crave it when the effects wear off. A physical dependence often occurs in those that drink alcohol on a regular basis. Whenever they are in ‘need’ of a drink, they might experience withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, nausea, and mood swings. Most learn quite quickly that a sip or two of alcohol can help to ease these symptoms. And so the cycle begins.

Do You Have an Alcohol Problem?

Now that you know what drives alcohol addiction and how it develops, you might be wondering if you could be affected. It is common to have these questions if you are worried about your own alcohol use. Most of those concerned that their drinking is getting out of hand will consider if they could have an alcohol problem. They will be hoping that they are wrong, but they will be worried all the same.

Others will try to pretend that nothing is wrong in the hope that it will pass without them having to admit anything or taking any action. Denial is common among addicts. If you are worried about your own drinking and that it may be getting out of hand, it is important to address the issue head-on.

What you might not be aware of is the fact that alcohol addiction, like all other addictions, gets worse without treatment. It is very rare that someone with an addiction can overcome it without help. Those who do manage to quit alone usually do not address the underlying issues that caused their addiction in the first place and so end up on the path to addiction again at a later date.

To know for sure if you have an alcohol problem, consider the following:

  • Do you drink alcohol on a regular basis? Do you get drunk often? Do you drink alone?
  • Do you drink alcohol to make you feel better or to forget about your problems?
  • Do you do things under the influence of alcohol that you would never do when sober? Do you feel ashamed or guilty afterwards?
  • Do you have periods when you are under the influence of alcohol that you cannot remember?
  • Do you need to drink more now than you used to achieve the effects that you desire?
  • Do you hide your drinking habits from loved ones because you think they would not understand?
  • Do you lie about how much you have had to drink?
  • Do you need to drink alcohol before you go out to meet people?
  • Have you tried to cut back or quit drinking but been unable to?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when in need of alcohol? Do these symptoms subside when you have had alcohol?
  • Does your entire social life revolve around alcohol?
  • Do you neglect spending time with loved ones in favour of alcohol?
  • Is alcohol having a negative impact on your ability to go about your daily life?

If you have answered yes to one or two of the above questions, then you may be in trouble. If you have answered yes to more than this, it is likely that you do indeed have a problem and that you need to get help as soon as possible. To get your life back on track, it is important that you speak to someone for advice. There is plenty of help available for those with addiction. All you have to do is ask.

How to Access Help for Addiction

Admitting to having an alcohol problem to yourself, or anyone else for that matter is a difficult task. However, you need to accept that you have a problem and be prepared to act if you want to get better. If you have a close family member or friend who you can confide in, then reach out.

If you are worried about what others will say or what they will think of you, please call us here at Primrose Lodge. We have a team of fully trained advisors ready to take your call, many of whom have been where you are now and are living proof that recovery is possible.

If you would like advice on the next steps that you should take, we can offer confidential advice and guidance. If you are interested in getting started on a programme of recovery, we can tell you more about what we do here. We are a private clinic providing excellent detox and rehabilitation programmes for those struggling with all types of addiction and mental health problems. Please call today to find out more about what we do and how we can help you get your life back on track.

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