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People who begin drinking early in life (prior to age 15) are more likely to become addicted than people who wait until age 21 to drink. Long term, heavy drinking can cause extensive structural changes in the brain. The nature and extent of the physical toll on brain health varies depending on the age of the person, and the amount of alcohol being consumed. This damage can inhibit functioning, including reaction times, decision-making, and even the ability to learn new things. The reality that alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined has faded into the background of many discussions on addiction. Fifteen million people in the United States are suffering from alcohol use disorders, with only 7% receiving treatment.

It’s a disease of brain function and requires medical and psychological treatments to control it. A mental obsession is a thought that plays over and over again in your head, distracting from other thoughts and priorities. Mental obsession examples include planning or scheduling activities around alcohol consumption or the effects of alcohol consumption (e.g., hangovers) and increased thinking about alcohol.

How an Addicted Brain Works

A natural assumption would be that the classification of a disease requires that characteristics and symptoms can be measured or observed. While the majority of diseases fit this requirement, substance abuse does not. The contradiction to these requirements lies within the defined nature of “alcoholism.” This supposed disease’s symptoms are only discovered after the consumption of alcohol.

What is alcoholism considered as?

A severe alcohol use disorder, previously known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, is a chronic disease. Some of the signs and symptoms of a severe alcohol use disorder could include: Inability to limit drinking. Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems.

Psychotherapies can help a person learn to cope with everyday stress without alcohol. Services span from outpatient therapy and medication appointments to more sober house intensive inpatient treatments. When you take a drug, your brain releases a flood of dopamine, much more than it would when you’re eating your favorite pie.

How do alcohol use disorders affect people?

When speaking to people in long term recovery from an alcohol use disorder and their families, you hear the heartbreak of active alcoholism as well as the joy to be found on the road to recovery. Brain scans also show the biological impact of chronic alcohol use, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. CT scans have revealed that atrophy, or wasting away of cells, commonly occurs in the brains of alcoholics.

How many drinks do alcoholics have a day?

Alcoholics generally drink excessively, often much more than four drinks per day and in a manner they can't control. Excessive drinking is a serious health problem for millions of people in the United States. Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is one facet of problem drinking.

For some alcohol abusers, psychological traits such as impulsiveness, low self-esteem and a need for approval prompt inappropriate drinking. Some individuals drink to cope with or “medicate” emotional problems. Social and environmental factors such as peer pressure and the easy availability of alcohol can play key roles. Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence. Excessive users of alcohol have been shown to suffer in varying degrees from both acute and chronic diseases.

Possible risk factors

With this said, we should point out that the predisposition can only prove a difference in bodily processes, not a difference in thinking. Goodwin goes on to explain single gene mutations are not accountable for, and cannot explain, complex behaviors. The truth is a predisposition for substance abuse, if it does exist, has no bearing on subsequent behaviors. Altered processing of alcohol in no way determines choice or behaviors.

Treatment centers develop a customized plan for each patient depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder and the presence of another co-occurring disorder. Environmental factors influencing alcoholism are also taken into account. After leaving a treatment center, recovering alcoholics are encouraged to continue their treatment by following the 12-Steps program and seeking aftercare treatments. Both programs can help those in recovery build long-term coping mechanisms and lifestyle skills that help them recover and maintain sobriety. Close to 25-50% of people with substance use disorders have a chronic illness.