Alcohol Addiction Causes
Why is it that allows one person to be able to drink, even drink heavily, yet they will never become an alcoholic? But another person merely tries alcohol and almost immediately they develop the disease of alcoholism and struggle to rid themselves of the monkey on their back. The topic of alcohol addiction causes will either be food for a good conversation or the beginning of a rather heated argument, depending on what side of the fence you’re sitting on.
A disease of the brain
For starters, alcoholism is a brain disease. If a person never takes a drink, the brain’s reaction to alcohol never takes place. Therefore, one could argue that the main cause of alcoholism is drinking. But it really isn’t that simple. One person drinks without developing the disease, while another gets sick. Something “clicks” in the brain. Alcoholics will often tell you they experienced that “click” when the alcohol hit its target inside their brain. There are some factors to this, so let’s take a cursory look and four of them – genetic, social, psychological and environmental.
We are all a product of our parents, mom and dad. If mom and dad had the disease it is logical to assume that you are predisposed to alcohol addiction as well. It’s not etched in stone, but it’s a good indicator. Chronic diseases run in families. If you father had a heart attack, you would probably be considered “at rick” for some kind of cardiac event yourself. Whatever was going on inside mom or dad’s brain that caused them to either drink heavily or develop alcoholism, you are probably going to have the same reaction to the drug.
Everyone does it!
Social aspects of the disease are important to understand. Many high school students cave into peer pressure and attend beer parties, or “take a swig” when the bottle is passed around. They want to have a good time with the crowd and they want to fit in. Commonly people will gather for drinks after work, or you’ve no doubt heard about executive types having a two-martini lunch.
Of course, even for well-educated professional people, the lure of being accepted might mean having that scotch with the boss to feel accepted, or to “look the part.” Go to any sporting event and people are tailgating, and that always means beer and liquor. Drinking is a part of the American culture. It’s everywhere. Exposure is one of the common alcohol addiction causes.
I’m sad and anxious and when I drink I feel better
Sadly, there are psychological factors and alcohol addiction causes include the person’s perceived need to “self medicate.” This is also one of the key alcohol addiction causes. Away from friends and colleagues, away from the social gatherings and sporting events, people drink alone, not for recreation, not to relax and have fun, but to feel better. We talked about the “click” and many people just liked the way they felt when they had that first drink. People suffering from depression or low self esteem may be more likely to develop a drinking problem.
Both parents drink kids likely to drink
Environmental factors have to be considered. Let’s take the case of a young person who lives with two parents who drink, but are not alcoholics. They use alcohol routinely, but neither has developed any kind of psychological or physical dependence. The young person is present and knows that mom and dad always have liquor in the house. That would be an environmental factor.
A person who is around the drug does not necessarily automatically become an addict, but they are around it and that increases the danger. Another example of an environmental factor is in the case of a recovering alcoholic, who needs to avoid drinking, yet always finds him/her self in a situation where alcohol is present. One main of the alcohol addiction causes is access, if you are around alcohol all of the time you are much more likely to become alcoholic. Granted, that may be a more social factor, but access to the drug is an important cause factor that must be considered.
If a person has come out of a treatment facility, is going to meetings and trying to cooperate with a carefully designed recovery program, going back to the same old haunts and seeing the old gang isn’t going to help. They really do need to get in a different environment.
Develops over time
Whatever the alcohol addiction causes, alcoholism usually develops over time. Brain chemistry is affected, as the pleasure censors in the brain are stimulated and people enjoy to relaxation and feel less inhibited. Alcohol will impair judgment, reflexes and will cause mood changes. There are happy drunks and mean drunks.
Everyone is different.
Over time a person wants to repeat the experience. They drink more often
and they drink more. The type of alcohol
doesn’t matter. People get drunk on beer
as easily as they get drunk on whiskey.
They sometimes reach a point where the alcohol takes over and they can
no longer control their drinking. But straight Vodka is often the preference of alcoholics because it seems to be more odorless.
One drink too much the entire ocean not enough
The late Rev. Dwayne Olson, who was the inspiration for this web site, said it this way:
“One drink is too much and all of Lake Michigan is not enough.”
Studies show that one/two drinks per day for the average person (15 per week for men, 12 per week for women) is within safe limits. It follows that going beyond that limit can produce problems. The probability is that one in nine will develop the disease.
What determines alcohol addiction? We turn to the DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Dependence for a closer look. Three or more of the following must be present in order for an individual to be diagnosed with alcoholism:
May be a heavy drinker but not addicted to alcohol
To understand the nature of the disease, we first must try to identify the criteria necessary for the disease to be present. Dr. Carlton Erickson of the University of Texas, explained to a large group of counselors that some people, no matter how much they drink, will not become alcoholics, because the criteria as outlined above and in DSM is not evident. They don't develop a tolerance, or go into withdrawal or need greater amounts for the same effect.
Alcoholics feel that they CAN’T QUIT!
Alcohol addiction causes depend on the individual. While alcohol addiction can be predicted, even with some accuracy, it’s not automatic. Unlike other chronic diseases, alcohol addiction causes boil down to one major cause—a person takes a drink. Once the disease takes hold and progresses, even of the person hates drinking and wants to quit, it won’t be enough. Treatment is the only option for those who have been afflicted.
A Few More Truths
About Alcohol Addiction Causes and Myths
The problem with truth is you rarely hear it, especially when untruth is being shouted and repeated. That’s sort of the way it is with alcohol in this country. What we know is vastly overshadowed by what we don’t know. Some of our supposed “knowledge” is nothing more than myth, but never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.
Alcohol is by far the most abused drug. It’s perfectly legal for those of legal age. It’s available everywhere, round-the-clock, and it’s inexpensive. This is also one of the key alcohol addiction causes. We Americans pride ourselves in our ability to “hold our liquor” and we tend to deny our intoxicated state, and so we begin to examine some of the myths and see if there is a shred of truth to them.
Myth 1: Black coffee will sober you up.
That is his solution for having a few too many. It sounds like it could work, but in reality it doesn’t. The only thing that will sober you up is time. You can drink all the black coffee you like, but it isn’t going to help, so the adage old “put him to bed and let him sleep it off” is the remedy that is tried and true.
Depending on the blood alcohol level, one can actually sleep for a few hours and still be legally drunk when they awaken. Some people think they can take a couple of aspirin to prevent the ill effects, i.e. hangover, of having one too many. Well, you can put that one with the black coffee, because aspirin will actually make somebody drunker and prolong the effects of the alcohol longer. Sorry, nice try.
Myth 2: A little “hair of the dog” will straighten you right up.
Remedies for hangovers are plentiful, creative and at times comical. But having a drink in the morning to straighten you up is an old wives tale and a bad idea. What is partially true is having that drink could put off the effects of the alcohol, but the hangover is coming as a result of the blood alcohol level lowering. Guess what, you’ve added more alcohol, so the hangover could get worse. Again, sleep it off, but if you’re going to drink anything, let that be water. Keep hydrated, you’ll feel better. Drinking when you get up is also one of the key alcohol addiction causes.
Myth 3: If you get pulled over, you can fool a breathalyzer test.
Popping a breath mint, sucking on copper, or doing anything else isn’t going to work. When the police pull you over, they know what they are doing and they know all the tricks. The air they want to test isn’t the air in your mouth anyway. It’s the air deep in your lungs they want to test.
Myth 4: You can’t get drunk on beer like you can on liquor.
I love this one. A 12 ounce beer will have about the same alcohol content as a mixed drink, given the bartender doesn’t get too generous on his overflow from the shot glass. You will get drunk on beer. You might get full before you’re completely sozzled, but alcohol is alcohol. And no, if you’re an alcoholic, merely switching to beer isn’t a good idea.Thinking that beer is not alcohol is also one of the key alcohol addiction causes.
Myth 5: Men and women can drink the same amount if they are the same size.
Men and women are different. Live with it. Women do not have as much muscle and so they tend to process more alcohol through their liver than men. They don’t have as much lean body mass, and their liver is the same size, so the alcohol gets into their bloodstream faster. Ladies should be wise to avoid drinking contests, because they will probably lose.
Myth 6: It’s ok to let my teenager drink at home, when I am there
Of all the myths, this is the most deadly. Children and alcohol do not mix. Children who are introduced to alcohol at a young age are far more likely to develop the disease of alcoholism than those who wait until they are 21 to have that first drink. Responsible parents do not allow their children to drink. So many people who have that first drink experience “the click” and immediately know that they like the way they feel when they drink alcohol.
The brain of a teenager is not fully developed, and if the child is not able to fully think through a situation and understand the ramifications of his/her actions, it stands to reason that they are in jeopardy of getting into trouble without even knowing what is happening. Teens believe that they are invincible and they will live forever, and so the chance of them engaging in risky behavior is far greater. This is also one of the key alcohol addiction causes; teens and their parents underestimating their vulnerability. The vast majority of alcoholics and drug addicts began early.
Myth 7: I’m not an alcoholic; I’m just a problem drinker
No, you’re an alcoholic. Those who chronically abuse alcohol have the disease. Some may have it worse than others, but they have it. People will deny their disease. It may be because of shame, or fear that they will be found out and perhaps fired from their job, but the power of the denial is apparent. Rather than getting treatment for their disease, they say they just have a few too many.
They say they can handle it and they have everything under control. Some alcoholics are highly functional. But as the disease progresses, and it surely will, they will lose that control and their lives will become, as the first of the 12 Steps says, unmanageable.
Myth 8: This pill will cure you of alcoholism
We would all like to see a cure for alcoholism, drug addiction, diabetes and a host of other chronic diseases. But there isn’t. There are drugs that make it very unpleasant to drink, but absent that drug, a person will drink.
The pill might keep you from drinking, but most alcoholics want to drink, so the solution to that is not taking the pill. You cannot cure alcoholism, but you can control it through treatment and a good recovery program. People can live happy, healthy and productive lives and they don’t need alcohol.
Understanding these myths and alcohol addiction causes can be the first step to preventing the start of this devastating disease.
Please ask your question or share your story concerning alcoholism causes.
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Joe Herzanek discusses the importance of Step 6 in a successful 12-Step recovery, this week on Recovery Now!