A common misconception is alcohol addiction is simple to overcome. For those who don’t suffer from the disease, understanding alcohol addiction is not so easy. Many believe it to be a cop-out or a character flaw. However, the realities of alcohol use disorder (AUD) are life-threatening and can be next to impossible to treat without outside help. In order to address excessive drinking, it’s critical to understand how the brain works and changes when alcohol dependency is an issue.

Those battling alcohol use disorders drink to excess, endangering both themselves and others. It’s critical to find help as soon as possible. If you’re not sure where to turn, AspenRidge REACH online treatment can provide assistance and information to help you understand AUD. Contact us today directly at 720-650-8055.

understanding alcohol addiction

Why Do People Become Alcohol Dependent?

There are many reasons a person may develop alcohol use disorder. For the majority of cases, there is an underlying cause that may lead a person to excessive drinking. A few common underlying co-occurring disorders include depression, trauma, PTSD, or anxiety. In many cases, individuals will attempt to self-medicate with alcohol in an effort to relieve stress or deal with insomnia.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), moderate alcohol use—no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women and older people—is relatively harmless. Moderate use, however, lies at one end of a range that moves from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependence.

Once a person has developed alcohol use disorder, it’s not a simple case to quit. Alcohol dependency results in significant and recurrent adverse consequences. For example, a person with alcohol dependency may fail to fulfill major school, work, family, or financial obligations. Regardless of the results, a person who is dependent on alcohol will continue to drink.

Understanding alcohol addiction is difficult. Because alcohol is deeply embedded in American culture, it may feel that drinking is a normal activity. However, partaking in occasional drinking is not the same as being dependent or addicted to the substance.  Alcohol use disorder is an illness, not a lifestyle choice. The changes in the brain prevent an individual from seeing the damage alcohol may be causing, further victimizing them as they continue to lose sight of important life obligations.

Common Myths About Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 6.2% of adults in the United States aged 17 and older have alcohol use disorder. A government survey revealed that about one in five individuals aged 12 to 20 were current alcohol users. About two in five young adults, aged 18 to 25, were binge alcohol users, and nearly one in ten were heavy alcohol users.

Even with these staggering statistics, many still don’t understand how alcohol addiction happens. As a result, myths regarding alcohol and binge drinking crop up. These myths can perpetuate the misconception that people who suffer from alcohol use disorder can easily solve this illness by simply not drinking. Individuals may even wonder why they consume so much and why it’s difficult to stop.

Let’s take a look at some common myths that crop up in understanding alcohol addiction:

Alcohol Dependency Is A Choice

Many people believe that someone actively chooses to keep picking up the bottle. However, it is highly unlikely that a person actively decided to end up in this position. Once someone has developed an addiction to a substance, their body finds it difficult to cope without it in their system. If someone were to stop drinking and try to go cold turkey, they would suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

These can include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Excessive sweating as well as fevers
  • Shaky hands
  • Issues with sleep
  • Seizures and hallucinations
  • Fast heart rate
  • Higher blood pressure

Overcoming Alcoholism Is Easy If You Try

While it is true that you will need determination to tackle alcohol use disorder, it is untrue that this has to be done alone. Most of the time, people will need help from a proper treatment program or from professionals to help them recover from alcohol addiction.

Only Certain Ages Are At Risk for Alcohol Addiction

A lot of people tend to believe that only those of certain age groups will develop a dependency on alcohol. However, this isn’t the case. A person can develop alcohol use disorder at any age, both young and old. In fact, in 2019 an estimated 414,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 had alcohol use disorder.

Understanding alcohol addiction goes beyond age limitations and lifestyle choices. There are a number of factors that may make an individual more prone to developing alcohol dependency or alcohol use disorder. Few factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental causes
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Childhood or recent trauma

There’s never a sure way to assess whether or not a person who drinks may become a habitual drinker. It’s important to evaluate drinking habits periodically and understand when excessive drinking begins to interfere with daily routine or life in general.

Addressing Alcohol Use

If you are concerned that a loved one has become dependent on alcohol and may need help, it will be important to tackle this in a sympathetic, sensitive way. It will be important to use empathetic statements that show you’re worried about their welfare rather than try to blame them for their drinking.

Give your loved one options for tackling the situation rather than demand they seek help. Make sure to focus your concern about their drinking, using statements with the phrasing “I” to show how you are being impacted by the misuse, such as “I am worried about your alcohol use, and I was worried that you came home late last night, as I didn’t know where you were.”

alcohol addiction myths

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

There are several signs to look out for that show a person may be suffering from alcohol use disorder. These can include:

  • Needing to drink more than before because of a building tolerance to alcohol
  • Repeatedly wanting to reduce the amount they drink but finding themselves unable to do so
  • Letting alcohol use impact their commitments such as school, work, or home life
  • Spending the majority of their time drinking
  • Suffering from strong cravings for alcohol
  • Reducing or abandoning hobbies, social activities, and work commitments
  • Drinking in unsafe situations such as swimming or driving
  • Suffering from withdrawal symptoms

The longer someone suffers from alcohol use disorder, the more these symptoms will have a detrimental impact on their health. Consistent alcohol misuse can lead to liver diseases, heart problems, digestive problems, diabetes, and many more issues. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 95,000 people die from alcohol-related issues every single year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alcohol Affects the Brain

So why isn’t it a simple case of willpower? This is because excessive drinking actively changes the way your brain works. It rewires how your brain works, changing the neural pathways in a process known as neuroplasticity.

Alcohol is a natural depressant. When this is consumed, our body releases its happy chemical, dopamine, to combat this. This can cause someone to seek out alcohol to get that rush of dopamine again.

Over time this will affect the frontal lobe in your brain, where important decisions are made. This part of the brain helps make good decisions, so once it has been hampered, it will affect someone’s ability to make sound judgment decisions. This is how alcohol use disorder can influence people to rethink their priorities and allow alcohol to become a destructive force on their life.

what is alcohol addiction

How to get help for alcohol use disorder

If you are concerned about a loved one’s drinking, or you suffer from alcohol use disorder yourself, you are not alone. AspenRidge has a range of alcohol addiction treatment programs to help you on the road to recovery. To find an alcohol addiction treatment program that works for you, give AspenRidge REACH a call at 720-650-8055.