How addicting is alcohol? Can anyone get addicted to it?
Alcoholism, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism is well known to be a genetic condition that is inherited. If you have alcoholics in your family, your chance of developing alcoholism is significant. Yet, is it possible for someone without a family history of alcoholism to become addicted to alcohol? This is a good question.
What exactly is an addiction?
Addiction is a complex and poorly understood phenomenon in which a person develops the compulsion to repeat a self-harming behavior with a loss of self-control and cravings to return to the behavior. It is thought to be related to changes in the physical structure of the brain and has genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk of becoming addicted. When we think of addiction, we think of drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. Yet, alcohol is also a drug. It is very likely that addiction to alcohol is possible for a person who has no definite family history of alcoholism.
Is it possible for an alcoholic to learn to control their drinking?
Generally, alcoholism is characterized by a loss of control when it comes to alcohol. While a non-alcoholic can sit down and drink one or two beers and stop, alcoholics tend to lose control and engage in binge drinking. Many people with alcohol use disorder will drink until they pass out or until the alcohol is no longer available to them. It has been proposed that the drug, naltrexone, may help alcoholics to learn to control their drinking. Naltrexone interrupts the reward system of the brain by blocking opioid receptors. The pleasure associated with drinking alcohol, as well as cravings for alcohol, are reduced by naltrexone. The Sinclair Method is a method that involves the use of naltrexone to help alcohol-dependent people maintain a level of drinking at no more than 1-2 drinks per day.
Should more alcoholics try the Sinclair Method to control their drinking?
The Sinclair Method claims over 70% effectiveness in helping alcoholics reduce drinking and to stop binge drinking. This is a fairly good success rate. However, alcohol-related illnesses can be severe. Long-term consequences of alcohol use include brain damage, liver damage, and heart disease. In my experience, the safest route to take in quitting use is to aim for complete abstinence. Many alcoholics have found long-term sobriety by joining Alcoholics Anonymous and getting involved. There are also other excellent support groups, such as Smart Recovery and Celebrate Recovery. So, abstinence is very much preferred to even moderate drinking.
Can marijuana help someone diagnosed with alcohol use disorder quit drinking?
Marijuana has recently been celebrated as a cure-all. The list of diseases that can be treated by marijuana use grows daily, including claims that it can be used to control alcohol abuse and treat alcohol dependence. In truth, marijuana is a drug with limited usefulness. While it may help some patients with specific conditions, treating alcoholism or other forms of addiction with marijuana is a questionable approach. However, marijuana is the safer of the two drugs. While marijuana does have risks and consequences of its own, it is not nearly as damaging to health as is alcohol.
Should someone suffering from alcohol addiction see their doctor?
Yes, alcohol use disorder can be treated successfully by doctors. First, it is important to detox from alcohol and to minimize withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal can lead to symptoms that include dangerous seizures. Heavy drinkers should quit drinking under medical supervision. After the patient has been detoxed off of alcohol, there are medications that can reduce cravings and also provide behavioral support to quit drinking. Naltrexone reduces alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse by reducing cravings and pleasure from drinking. Disulfiram can also be taken. It causes sickness and possibly vomiting whenever the patient has a drink. When a patient takes disulfiram or Antabuse, they will be motivated to avoid alcohol so they won’t get sick.
Alcohol addiction and other drugs.
When someone is addicted to alcohol, there is a higher risk that they may become addicted to other drugs as well. It is not uncommon for a patient with alcohol use disorder to quit drinking and then become dependant on Valium or Xanax. In fact, some people call these sedative tablets, “alcohol in a pill”. Other drug problems can develop as well, including opioid addiction. If a person has alcohol dependence, they should avoid illicit drugs after they get sober.
What about the health benefits of alcohol?
It has been said that drinking a glass of red wine every evening has health benefits, including improved heart health. Fortunately, you can find the beneficial substances of red wine, such as resveratrol, in supplements available at your grocery store or pharmacy. It turns out that there is no need to drink alcohol to stay healthy.
Is society moving away from heavy alcohol use?
In the past, people with alcohol dependence who could not easily limit consumption to a single drink or two had to limit their social lives. To stay sober, they would have to avoid bars, clubs and even some restaurants. Alcoholic beverages are sold at many of these establishments and they are hard to avoid in social situations. Fortunately, there has been a recent trend of sober bars and no alcohol clubs. It is now possible to go out with friends and meet new people in alcohol-free environments.
Taking the first step to sobriety and eliminating alcohol consumption from your life.
In the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step involves admitting that there is a problem. Obviously, you have to know you have a problem in the first place before you can work on fixing the problem. Working this step involves going to meetings, finding a sponsor and then writing personal answers to questions provided by the sponsor. However, there is a step that comes before sitting down to work with a sponsor. If you have alcohol problems and heavy drinking is an issue, asking for help is a good first step. Family members can help you to find help and get to your first doctor’s appointment. The doctor will help you to address health problems and come up with a plan to quit drinking.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence in the modern world.
Alcoholic beverages are everywhere. If you go into a treatment program to detox and get sober, it is not that hard to not have a drink while in the program. Yet, when you finally get out and go back to living in the real world, you will find that it is not as easy to avoid alcohol as you may have thought it would be. When it comes to quitting a drug like heroin or cocaine that is illegal, deleting the phone number of your dealer can make all the difference in avoiding future drug use. When you have a craving for the drug, it will be harder to act on that craving. When it comes to alcohol consumption, the drug is everywhere. Grocery stores, convenience stores, parties, friends and family’s houses. It is literally almost everywhere. Unfortunately, relapse is fairly common. When it comes to alcohol, it is important to do everything possible to be vigilant and maintain sobriety. This means getting involved in a recovery group and also seeing your doctor about medical treatment for alcohol dependence.