What makes alcohol so addictive?
Most of us are aware of the dangers of alcohol and how addictive it can be. Rarely, however, do we ask why. To answer the question, what makes alcohol so addictive, we must first answer how people become addicted in the first place.
How Does Alcohol Become Addictive
Alcohol consumption is usually a social activity. People drink because their friends, coworkers, and family are drinking. Therein lies the problem; Drinking produces a sort of “high” that we begin craving. Whether it’s the feeling of fitting in, being the center of attention, forgetting about their problems for a while, or simply numbing any pain you feel, those feelings can become addictive.
The more you feed into these feelings by drinking, the higher your tolerance levels get. This begins a vicious cycle of needing more and more alcohol to reach the level that you’re used to.
Physical and Psychological Addiction to Alcohol
If a person continues the pattern of drinking heavily to reach a familiar level, eventually, they will begin to not feel ‘normal’ without some alcohol. This is known as a psychological addiction because the act of drinking alcohol becomes habitual and they need it in order to feel good or like their normal selves. Physical addiction occurs once a person is unable to stop drinking without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which include anxiety, shakiness, and on the more extreme end, seizures severe shaking, confusion, and hallucinations.
This physical and psychological addiction stems from the effect that alcohol has on the brain. In a 2012 study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that drinking alcohol releases endorphins in two areas of the brain that are associated with reward processing. This study also concluded that people who identified as “heavy” drinkers had a higher release of these feel good chemicals.
That is truly the core of why alcohol is so addictive. It hits, at the chemical level, multiple areas in the brain. And it hits at a psychological level, leaving the person unable to function without it. As we’ve discussed, the higher tolerance makes the “high” that is achieved from this endorphin release and from the different psychological triggers exceedingly difficult to achieve and, unfortunately, addiction follows.
If you or a loved one are addicted to alcohol, take a look at your treatment options at The Recovery Village.