The Chemistry of Alcohol Addiction

The Chemistry of Alcohol AddictionRaleigh Durham residents begin drinking for different reasons. For many drinking begins simply as a social activity or a way to fit in with a crowd. Others begin to drink to calm nerves or temper anxiety. As alcohol use progresses certain biochemical changes occur which can lead to addiction.

How Alcohol Affects Neurotransmitter Levels

People generally become addicted to drugs or alcohol, because addictive substances alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters and the body adapts to and opposes those changes. This leads to dependence and is the reason Raleigh Durham residents experience withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped. Different substances alter different neurotransmitters. Alcohol influences several including GABA, glutamate and dopamine.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which decreases electrical activity in the brain. Alcohol increases its effects which may cause such observable intoxication symptoms as slurred speech or sluggishness. Glutamate is an excitatory chemical that stimulates brain activity. Alcohol inhibits glutamate, so the slowing of brain activity in those who’ve consumed alcohol is due to both of these chemical effects. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with the brain’s reward center. Alcohol increases dopamine, so the brain associates drinking with pleasure. Most addictive substances increase dopamine which is one way that people are biologically trained to continue substance-using behavior.

How Neurotransmitters Relate to Alcohol Addiction

The process of becoming addicted to a substance is due to its primary effects and to the body’s adaptations. In general if a substance increases a neurotransmitter, the body reacts by decreasing its production or by making receptor sites less sensitive. After a while the body comes to see the presence of the substance as normal and is only biochemically in balance when the substance is present. The body’s adaptations are opposite in nature to the substance’s primary effects. Since alcohol’s primary effects are sedative, the body’s adaptations are stimulatory. This is why alcoholics in Raleigh Durham experience withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, increased heart rate, agitation and tremors.

Raleigh Durham Alcohol Use and the Brain

The definition of addiction is continued use of a substance despite negative effects. Unfortunately as alcohol addiction progresses, it becomes more difficult for Raleigh Durham residents to associate drinking with its consequences. This is due in part to the way alcohol affects thought processes. The center of thinking in the brain is the cerebral cortex. Alcohol affects this part of the brain by depressing inhibition and slowing the processing of sensory information. It also makes it difficult for people to think clearly. Continual drinking over a period of time can impact the fibers that carry information between brain cells. It can also cause the brain to shrink.

Finding Alcohol Addiction Treatment for Raleigh Durham Residents

Reversing the health effects of alcohol addiction begins with detox, but it involves much more than that.
If you struggle with alcohol addiction, a quality rehab program will help you resolve ambivalence, understand underlying factors that may contribute to alcohol abuse and develop relapse prevention skills. We can help you find a treatment program that meets your needs.

If you are ready to take a step toward freedom from alcohol addiction, give us a call. Our toll-free helpline is staffed around the clock with helpful counselors who can answer your questions. They can even check your insurance coverage, if you wish. Alcohol addiction is a real disease, but it can be treated. Let us help.