Alcoholism and Addiction


The "active" ingredient in drinking alcohol is ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Ethanol, despite it's legality, is considered to be a sedative-hypnotic drug (also know as a "downer") that affects the brain like other sedative-hypnotic drugs, like Valium and other barbiturates would do.

Prolonged consumption of ethanol is known to cause physical dependence in many individuals. Physical dependence can include the following symptoms:

  • Confusion, hypervigilance and disorientation (which happens under excessive consumption as well)
  • High body temperature, increased blood pressure and pulse and respiration
  • Increased restlessness, anxiety and insomnia
  • Hallucinations and psychotic behavior

While physical dependence is dangerous, it is not considered to be an "addiction". There are similarities between physical dependence and addiction, but there are significant differences. "Alcohol Addiction" is a complex behavioral syndrome where:

  • An individual's use of alcohol is done to extremes
  • Alcohol use is rationalized or minimized
  • Alcohol use results in personality changes and
  • Alcohol use results in negative consequences, whether financial, personal, health or other.

On the surface, these may sound like alcohol dependence, but in reality, only a small percentage of alcohol overusers are addicted.

The big difference between physical dependence and addiction, is that gradual reduction of dosage can "cure" dependence before harm is done. Those addicted tend to disregard medical advice and increase their use, and consume the substance far in excess of normal doses, and will often indulge at times or in places that non-addicts would not consider.

Addicts will give a substance harmful importance and will behave rigidly and repetitively with respect to their use of the substance, despite harm being done to himself and others.

How do I know if I have an alcohol addiction?

If you continue to use and abuse alcohol, to the detriment of relationships, your health, your work and finances, you may be addicted to alcohol. Some people are predisposed to alcohol dependence and addiction by their genes - they have more receptors for alcohol in their brains than others.

Can addiction be treated?

Yes, alcohol addiction can be treated. Alcohol addiction, like most other addictions, is a chronic, relapsing condition. The goal with most alcohol addictions is complete cessation of the addictive behavior - to stop drinking.

What treatments are available?

Treatment can include individual counseling, anonymous group sessions, medication or a combination of the above. If you or your loved ones are concerned about your dependence on alcohol, visit Alcoholics Anonymous to find a support group near you or talk with your doctor about a therapy or treatment that might work for you.

How can I quit abusing alcohol?

Quitting drinking, when you have an alcohol addiction can be very difficult. It is for this reason that many alcoholics support groups exist around the world. While kicking an alcohol addiction is tough, it isn't impossible and the first step is admitting your alcohol addiction to yourself and those who you have affected. Once you have done that, you will have put yourself in the right frame of mind to seek treatment.



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Random Facts about Alcohol

Despite alcohol being prohibited to those under 21, 62% of high school seniors claim to have been drunk - half of these individuals claim to have had five or more drinks in a row during the previous 2 weeks.

LD Johnston, et.al., Monitoring the Future Study, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 12/99


See More Facts

The information contained in this document is for informational purposes only. Blood Alcohol.info makes every effort to maintain accuracy in the information on this site. If you find errors, please let us know through our contact form and we will fix the issue quickly. If you feel you are addicted, please seek medical attention, therapy or group interaction for assistance.