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Addiction has the power to tear and erode at a person’s quality of life once it gets out of control. All substances taken in excess directly activate an individual’s internal reward system, which is responsible for reinforcing behaviors and the production of memories. When the reward system is abused by a shortcut made possible by a drug or other stimulus, this initially intense activation may eventually lead to maladaptive behavioral and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal, tolerance and craving. In addition, healthy and routine activities may be neglected or negatively impacted.

In the case of alcohol addiction, the excessive consumption of drinks brings about an associated euphoria through the chemical endorphins it releases. Most people drink in a variety of social situations and celebrations, and the activity is commonly attributed to positive ideas of adult-like independence and an additional level of entertainment. In more extreme cases, alcohol is also used as a means of coping, usually in response to a traumatic event or periods of stress and anxiety. This is due to the substance’s classification as a depressant, which is characterized by its numbing of emotions and psychological activity. Alcohol may even be used to alleviate the consequential symptoms of other drugs or to substitute for them when others are not available. All too quickly, a person’s reasons for drinking can slip and spiral out of control.

Every year in the United States, alcohol abuse is estimated at 4.6 percent among 12 to 17-year-olds and 8.5 percent among adults age 18 years and older. Specifically, the most at-risk population is young adults, reported at 16.2 percent among people 18 to 29-years-old. While each instance of alcohol addiction varies from individual to individual, there is a host of possible factors and related causes that can influence a person to abuse the process of intoxication. For example, external factors include a person’s accumulated experiences with alcohol, the availability of alcohol, and the influence of one’s social circle. Internal factors have been considered as causes of alcohol disorders as well, with 40 to 60 percent of cases being hereditary. Other factors such as mental conditions including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder are associated with a significant increase in alcohol use, and several anxiety and depressive disorders have shown a relation to excessive drinking as well.

The first episode of alcohol intoxication is likely to occur during the prime of adolescence. For teenagers, alcohol abuse can be easily combined with other problems or issues such as conduct disorder and repeated antisocial behavior, in most cases occurring simultaneously. While a variably unique condition, alcohol use disorder is exemplified by periods of cycling remission and relapse. Although a person may choose to stop drinking, there may be a return to consumption or other substance abuse problems, sometimes at an escalated rate, if his or her proactive coping strategies are not strong enough.

An ever-increasing intake of high and frequent doses of alcohol can affect nearly every organ system in the human body. On a functional level, normal activities and responsibilities are impaired as a result. These activities include driving and operating machinery, interpersonal relationships and overall health. Behaviorally, alcohol-related disorders are one of the leading factors of absenteeism from work or school, job-related accidents and low productivity. Emotionally, this kind of substance abuse can lead to prolonged episodes of anger, depression and anxiety, with associated and resulting risks of violence and suicide.

There is a common misconception that alcohol addiction is nearly impossible to overcome, especially in the eyes of those afflicted by it. For those suffering from recurrent relapses, it is also essential to treat all aspects of the problem, including underlying conditions or issues that have been previously overlooked. In this day and age, drug detox and rehabilitation treatment centers are available for these individuals in need, and mental health and addiction hotlines have been established to help connect patients with treatment and screen them for dual diagnosis possibilities. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol addiction, please contact the 24/7 Alcohol Addiction Help at (866) 480-6873 to learn more about treatment services in your area.