| Peter Cook

Addiction can lurk in your brain.

Introduction

Addiction is the compulsive seeking of a specific substance, thing, or activity and a growing tolerance to it and the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using/doing it.

Millions of Americans are addicted to some or other substance or activity. And millions more unaffected people are feeling the effect – in their families and their homes.  

The Monster around us

But, did you know that addiction to alcohol is one of the most destructive of all addictions? It is hard to believe that alcohol has such a high ranking amid heroin, cocaine, Oxycontin and other drugs. But it does. Why is alcohol so addictive?  

Yes, a drink or two can make you feel good. We know it affects your brain. But now, new research has shown that the ‘reward' center of the brain responds differently to alcohol in different people.

Brain imaging has shown that both light drinkers and heavy drinkers experience a feel-good rush in two key brain regions associated with reward when drinking.   

It’s a rush, baby

However, the endorphin release (that thing that makes you feel so good) is more intense in heavy drinkers. Even if both groups drank the same amount of alcohol, the heavy drinkers would feel more intoxicated.

Research has found that some people have more natural endorphins in their bodies.  Should they drink alcohol, it will be much more pleasurable for them than the average guy on the street. These people are more likely to drink too much and become alcoholics.

The findings of the research can lead to better, focused medications that might be able to block the endorphin response and blunts alcohol cravings in certain people.   

But not in all

One other thing that this research highlighted is the fact that there might be more ‘reward’ centers in the brain than previously thought. It is likely that other yet unidentified regions of the brain will also be discovered that can be associated with ‘rewards’ that will morph into addiction.

It all spells that alcohol dependence is a complicated disease, with more systems involved than previously thought.  Alcohol abuse can be genetic. People drink – but for different reasons- and treatment should be highly individualistic.

One of the five most addictive substances

The extent to which a drug kick-starts the brains dopamine system (and its feel-good areas) is one of the first on a list of criteria to decide precisely how addictive a particular substance is.  

Alcohol was named the number two most addictive substance on the planet by a recent panel of addiction experts. (The first is heroin.)   

The devastating effect

The damage that alcohol can do to a body and mind is often irreversible. More than 3 million people die every year in the US due to some or other form of alcohol abuse.

Sadly, alcohol is often the stepping stone to other drugs in the quest to the ultimate ‘high.'

When to get help

It can be difficult

It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact point in time when you realize that someone you love might have a problem. Symptoms of addiction can differ from person to person and will depend on the person’s drug of choice.   

Alcohol abuse is forewarned by changes in appearance, unexplained absences, and secretive behavior. Problems at home, at school or work, becomes increasingly frequent. The addict has an overwhelming desire to drink, and it can manifest itself in many ways.   

However, there will come a time when it cannot be ignored anymore: your loved one needs help.   

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Resources

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20120111/study-sheds-more-light-on-why-some-get-alcoholism#2

https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/these-are-the-5-most-addictive-substances-on-earth/

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