For many people, alcohol will be a constant in our lives in some form or another. From potentially early exposure as a child, around adults who are consuming it, all the way through to our later years, where we will be gradually more and more exposed to it at every turn. It’s easy to forget, when witnessing something be consumed on such a regular basis, that alcohol is a drug. Consuming alcohol in quantities that far exceed the recommended amount can be commonplace, depending on your upbringing and the part of the world that you grew up in.
Observing it being abused like this can have a kind of numbing effect to the realities of the potential consequences. However, the abuse of alcohol carries with it the exact same ramifications as the abuse of any drug: Addiction and the eventual deterioration of both mind and body. If you are wondering on what happens during an intervention, you can contact your local recovery center or check online.
Whether you are suffering from this yourself, or seeking help for another, it helps to understand a few things before you approach recovery. How does this addiction work? What are the effects of the abuse of alcohol, on the body and the brain? In order to best combat a problem, it’s crucial that we first understand how it works.
How Does Addiction Work
Although the effects on the body will be long-term, which may take a while to materialize; the effects on the brain are instantaneous. Although the in-depth detail of this can be complicated, the basics are fairly easy to understand. A common mechanical function of alcohol, as well as many other drugs, is the interaction that it will have with the dopamine levels in your brain.
The dopamine levels in your brain are determined by a system of neurotransmitters that send signals around your body and brain. The particular signals that dopamine sends are feel-good and pleasurable, a functionality of your brain that is designed to be a reward mechanism. When you consume alcohol, the alcohol will interact with this reward system, elevating production of dopamine and bringing with it all the feel-good benefits. Over time, however, the external chemical stimulation of dopamine levels will damage the circuits in your brain that control these levels, leaving an addict dependent on their drug of choice to determine their mood.
Identifying and Discussing Alcohol Addiction
Excessive drinking, whilst unhealthy, isn’t necessarily the main symptom that you need to watch out for when attempting to diagnose if you or somebody close to you is suffering from alcohol addiction. The key first sign to watch out for in any potential case of addiction is a dependency. The reason for this is that while the alcohol may not be yet be showing the physical effects that a person with alcoholism will eventually come to be exhibiting, they will be psychologically dependent on it in a way that will perhaps be easier to identify. Symptoms you could expect to see from somebody who is dependent on alcohol in this way and potentially on the verge of being addicted – or already is – are things such as:
- Becoming agitated or restless when they haven’t had alcohol, or complaining that they need a drink.
- They may attempt to hide their drinking from others, or will seemingly try to downplay the amount that they are drinking.
- Will often turn to drink when they are experiencing any kind of stress or hardship.
- They may find it hard to unwind or relax without the assistance of alcohol.
- Poor or hazy memory, even when sober.
- Drinking when it is wildly inappropriate, such as before operating a vehicle, or at strange times of the day
Although these signs may seem obvious, an alcoholic will attempt to hide them from you. If you, or somebody you know, are exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should seek help immediately.
Get Clean Safely
One of the first important notes to make regarding the treatment of an alcohol addiction is seeking the correct help. Somebody suffering from alcohol addiction and attempting to administer treatment should not attempt to do so on their own, not only for the sake of being successful in breaking the addiction, but for their own safety. Contact a doctor or a trained professional before you undertake any treatment.
After you have consulted a professional about the addiction and managed to set up some kind of system of support to keep the addicted person on track and safe, the next step will be detox. This process will consist of the addict waiting out the alcohol that is already in their blood, until the body is entirely purged of all alcohol. The withdrawal symptoms in this period will vary from person to person and largely depend on the severity of the addiction. This can range anywhere from discomfort, all the way to life threatening conditions such as a seizure. To reiterate again, this is why being in a controlled environment during a detox is so incredibly important.
After this, comes rehabilitation, as the behaviour of the alcoholic can now begin to be addressed. This is the most crucial phase of rehabilitation, as you want to avoid any kind of relapse. Some rehabilitation programs will offer their patients live-in facilities at a rehab center, allowing them to be kept under close watch, helping to ensure their success at breaking the habit. In addition to this, therapy will be incredibly valuable in treating the alcohol addiction, as attempting to heal the body but not the mind will just cause the problem to resurface, as the reasons for the addiction will still likely be present.
After rehabilitation, there are a multitude of support groups available that will help you get back to living a normal day-to-day life. The biggest struggle for an addict in this phase will be the temptation to drink again, but with a regular routine of attending helpful groups such as AA meetings, and enlisting a sponsor to keep an eye on the addict, the addiction can finally begin to be put to rest.