Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

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Alcohol depresses the central nervous system which can result in a calming effect. This can explain why people stop at their local pub for a drink or two after a frustrating day at work or pour a couple of drinks at home when life is stressful and feels overwhelming. Without treatment, this particular need for relief, and reliance on alcohol, can continue and grow to the point of addiction.

The Physical Effects of Alcohol

It is not uncommon for people to associate alcohol abuse with a mood or behavior disorder, and while there may be mental health co-occurring disorders, research is showing that alcohol addiction comes down to physical factors of brain activity.

Alcohol affects the nucleus accumbens, which most people refer to as the “pleasure center” of the brain. The consumption of alcohol creates endorphins, which are chemicals produced naturally by the body. This is what instills the euphoric and relaxed feeling.

Over time, it can take more and more alcohol to stimulate that pleasure center. This increase in tolerance and need can lead to a heavy drinker consuming more than their body can physically handle, resulting in alcohol poisoning.

The Science of Alcohol Addiction

Research is continuously being conducted to determine why alcohol is addictive in some people and does not seem to be in others. The drinking habits of 10% of men and 5% of women fall into the category of “alcohol use disorder.” This may be explained by studies of the neurotransmitters of the brain.

Alcohol consumption increases the production of GABA—gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA can be a way to “turn off” a hyperactive brain. While it may seem to help a turbulent emotional state at the time, it also has physical effects such as slurred speech, incoordination, and poor judgment.

Alcohol Addiction Recovery

The trappings of addiction can be strong, but with professional help and an individualized treatment program, you can be stronger. Summit Malibu uses a holistic approach to treat substance abuse and all co-occurring disorders and negative consequences. For more information about how you or a loved one can start on the road to recovery, contact us today.