Over 16 million Americans suffer from alcoholism, yet there still exists an overwhelming stigma that goes along with it. The truth is, though, that once drinking habits have surpassed optional and treaded into the deep waters of addiction, there is little choice involved in the act. In fact, most scientists and physicians have considered addiction and alcoholism a disease of the mind and body for the last 200 years.
But Isn’t it a Choice?
It’s true that those who start drinking choose to pick up the bottle and take a swig, but does that mean alcoholism is a choice too? Scientists think not. It may be a preventable condition, but once addiction is in play, you lose all sense of choice.
Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease. That means without treatment, it will progress, becoming more and more severe as the time passes, similar to other chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease.
This Is Your Brain on Alcohol
It’s no secret that consuming alcohol alters your mind. But it doesn’t just make you feel elated, it physically changes the way your brain works. The chemicals in alcohol change the way the neurons and neurotransmitters in your brain function, creating a false since of euphoria and prohibiting the brain from performing properly.
If alcohol is consumed regularly over an extended period of time, your brain starts to change permanently. White matter tracts in the brain are altered, resulting in crippling cognitive abilities. That means your brain is unable to communicate to the rest of your body in the same way it used to.
The brain also begins to regulate itself based around the presence of alcohol. It recognizes the altered state as normal and starts reacting negatively towards the absence of alcohol. This results in cravings and alcohol use disorder.
Is Alcoholism Genetic?
When you see stats like 86.8 percent of people have tried alcohol at some point in their lifetime, you can’t help but wonder why only a small fraction of those people have developed an addiction.
There are countless reasons behind the birth of an addiction. So many that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint one specific instance that it stems from. Elements that factor into the development of an addiction can include:
- Past traumas
- Mental health disorders
- Genetic makeup
Scientists have been debating for decades whether genetics have an influence on a person’s risk of addiction. It is now thought that there are several genes in the body that, if perfectly aligned, will make one person more susceptible to addiction than another. There are even certain environmental factors that could possibly trigger each gene to turn on and off, such as having alcohol in the home.
There Is Good News…
Like other chronic diseases, alcoholism is completely treatable. Through a well-balanced treatment plan, you will be able to learn strategies for coping with cravings, identifying triggers for relapse and enduring stressful situations without turning to alcohol as a security blanket. Strong support systems, medication and therapy will sooth your withdrawal symptoms and ease you into a life of sobriety.
Give us a call or come visit our Sober Living Center In Los Angles California