Millions of people take medications every day to control a physical or emotional problem. For example, you may take a daily pill for high blood pressure, or injections of insulin if you’re diabetic, or a pill to put your episode of depression into full remission. Why don’t be become physically and psychologically addicted to these medications, while alcohol is a highly addictive drug? The answer to this question lies in the chemical structure of alcohol and the way our bodies cope with its presence.
It’s a medical fact that some chemical substances cause addition. These substances include alcohol, tranquilizers, some sleep medications, and opiates for severe pain management. The thing that makes alcohol stand out from the crowd of millions of prescriptions medications is that the body regards it as a toxic poison. To keep you from dying from this poisoning, certain changes occur within your body, particularly in the brain and liver; they adapt themselves to the presence of alcohol in your body to keep you alive. Although, over time, your body eventually succumbs to the toxic effects of alcohol causing death, your brain and liver undergo changes that will keep you alive for a while. Once these physical changes occur, they occur forever. You can’t un-ring this bell, even if you stop drinking alcohol. If you stop drinking, the destructive effects of alcohol will diminish, but just take one drink, and the entire cycle starts all over again. Total alcohol cessation is your only hope to avoid terminal alcohol-related illnesses.
Alcohol is also psychologically addictive. For example, you may be shy and uncertain of yourself in social situations; a few drinks will give you a false sense of security, but does not last for long. On the job, you may be uncertain of your skills or you may experience anxiety when going for a raise or promotion. A couple of drinks before talking with your boss can decrease your feelings of stress and anxiety. Again, these psychological effects of alcohol last only a short time. To keep your psychological and emotional feelings under control, you may find yourself turning more and more often to alcohol as a means of stress management. Bad idea. Using alcohol for stress management will eventually backfire on you; you can’t be intoxicated on the job, at school, or at home parenting your children and maintaining happiness with your spouse.
Here are a few common signs that alcohol, an addictive substance, is having a negative effect on your life:
- Constant drinking to relieve the stress of personal problems
- An increase in your tolerance; needing to drink more to achieve the same effects
- Memory lapses, called “blackouts”
- Secret drinking
- Feeling physical and emotional cravings for alcohol
- Early morning tremors after excessive alcohol use the previous night
Using alcohol, a physically and psychologically addictive drug, will solve your problems on a short-term basis. But when you sober up, those problems are not only still there, but they’ve brought their friends! You cannot solve a problem by creating another problem. In addition, current medical research indicates that your body may be genetically prone to alcohol addiction if your primary relatives also had alcohol problems. Is there such thing as an “alcohol gene” that makes you more prone to alcohol addiction? The research strongly indicates that this is true. Thus, if you are the child of an alcoholic parent, you are genetically more prone to alcohol addiction that others who do not have this DNA pattern.
Alcohol is addictive because (1) the chemical structure of the drug causes irreversible changes in the body, (2) alcohol use results in short-term success, but long-term fatality, and (3) you may be genetically pre-disposed to develop alcoholism if you use the drug to excess. You can avoid these problems by using alcohol minimally or not at all.