While many adults can enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink and not suffer too many ill effects, alcohol addiction is still a serious problem around the world. Like any activity that brings pleasure and can become addictive, drinking alcohol stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. When you drink alcohol regularly, your brain will start to associate feelings of euphoria and relaxation with the drinks you consume. This will cause you to crave more alcohol until it becomes an addiction.
This is almost certainly not news to anyone; it’s how addiction works. It works that way whether your drug of choice is alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. What makes alcohol addiction so dangerous is that people can become addicted to it before they know it’s happening. Moderate drinking is socially acceptable and even expected in some circles. Even if you happen to get sloppily drunk, a lot of people will still think you’re just having some harmless fun. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional alcoholic drink, it’s still important to know how an alcohol addiction starts so you can recognize it in yourself or someone else you know.
Beginning with Experimentation
Most alcohol addictions start with experimentation with alcohol. This usually happens with young adults who are new to drinking. They’ve found something new, and they want to test their limits. Unfortunately, that translates into binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks in under two hours for men and four or more drinks in the same amount of time for women. This kind of binge drinking will cause anyone to build up a tolerance to alcohol, which will drive them to drink more frequently.
While one can argue that alcohol addiction starts with experimenting with alcohol and binge drinking, it won’t become a serious ongoing problem until your regular alcohol consumption increases. People in this stage of alcohol addiction find themselves drinking heavily nearly every weekend instead of just on certain occasions. They might also find excuses to drink such as getting together with friends, alleviating stress, or coping with boredom or loneliness.
Regular alcohol consumption is different from moderate drinking. Moderate drinking is usually having a glass of wine for dinner or having a beer when you get together with friends. It can be fun and may enhance the experience, but it isn’t the main attraction. If you feel like you can enjoy yourself just fine without alcohol, you’re probably a reasonably healthy moderate drinker. On the other hand, if you feel like you need to drink in order to feel good or that you have an emotional attachment to drinking, you might have the beginnings of a drinking problem.
When Drinking Becomes a Problem
Frequent uncontrolled drinking will eventually turn into a problem, possibly before you know there is a serious issue. This is when you’ve become dependent on alcohol to the point where it affects your health and your everyday life. Signs of problem drinking include depression, insomnia, or anxiety, especially when you’re not drinking. You might start to feel sick from all of your drinking, but you’re too dependent on its other effects too much to care. You also might not experience relationship issues, decreased social activity, or difficulty talking to people.
Dependence and Addiction
Eventually, you might find that you are so dependent on or addicted to alcohol that you physically cannot function without it. You might not enjoy or experience the euphoric effects that it once had on you anymore; you drink because your body tells you that you need it. You might experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, body tremors, or a racing heart. You can still be treated for alcoholism and become sober once things get to the point of addiction or dependence, but you’re still better off if you get help at the beginning. If you find that you are drinking more frequently than you think you should or that you need to have a drink to enjoy a social situation, you may have the beginnings of alcohol addiction.
The same goes for when you drink to alleviate boredom or depression. Simply put, if you find that you need the effects of alcohol to feel good for any reason, it might be wise to take a step back and look at your drinking habits. As always, if you or a loved one is struggling with any stage of alcohol addiction, there is help available. Contact us today at 833-820-2922 to speak to our staff members and learn about the treatment programs that we have available.