Alcohol Addiction: Physical Addiction
Alcohol addiction stems from Ethanol or ethyl alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic drug which effects the human brain similarly to other sedative-hypnotic drugs such as the barbiturates and benzodiazepine tranquilizers(Valium, Xanax, Ativan &etc.;). Ethyl alcohol can cause physical dependence in anyone who consumes enough of it for a sufficient period of time.
Alcohol Addiction is Psychologically Different From Physical Dependence
Alcohol addiction, from a psychological viewpoint refers to a complex behavioral syndrome in which the patient: assigns abnormal importance alcohol or drinking; uses alcohol to an extreme and many times damaging degree; continues using alcohol despite negative consequences( to ones health, life, or the lives of others); maintains psychological defenses of denial, rationalization, minimization and projection of blame; and has personality changes and life disruption as a result of alcohol use.
Alcohol addiction can lead anyone to become physically dependent upon alcohol after drinking enough alcohol for long enough. However, only a small minority of psychologically and physiologically predisposed people will become psychologically addicted. Physical dependence is easily treated by a slow reduction of dosage which avoids withdrawal symptoms. However, those people manifesting the behavioral syndrome of alcohol addiction, rather than decreasing, escalate their alcohol use. They disregard medical advice and consume quantities of alcohol way above normal, conventional or even safe amounts and they often drink at times or in places that non-addicts would never consider drinking. An alcohol addict is someone for whom alcohol has become harmfully important and who manifests rigid, repetitive and stereotypical behavior in pursuit of alcohol despite clear indications that he is harming himself and often others by doing so.
Alcohol addiction is characterized by the consumption of significant quantities of alcohol on repeated occasions. The subjective motivating factor underlying this behavior is usually very obscure. When alcoholics are asked why they drink so much, they will sometimes attribute their drinking to a particular mood such as depression or anxiety or to situational problems. Often, they simply describe an overpowering “need” for drink, sometimes called a craving or compulsion. Frequently, however, the alcoholic is not able to give any reasonable explanation for his or her excessive drinking.
Alcohol addiction leads to a vicious cycle. On one hand, drinking may relieve guilt and anxiety; but on the other hand, it produces anxiety and depression, instead. This brings conditions associated with depression and anxiety disorders, such as insomnia, bad moods, irritability, and anxiety attacks with chest pain, palpitations, and dyspnea often occur. Alcohol seems to provide relief for these symptoms, but leads to a vicious cycle of drinking followed by depression followed by drinking which eventually leads to withdrawal syptoms. Sometimes the patient succeeds in stopping drinking for many days or weeks only to return to the bottle. Despair and hopelessness generally accompany this cycle. Alcoholics generally do not seek help until they have reached rock bottom. They they have so many problems that they feel nothing can be done to help them. At this point they may finally be prepared to acknowledge their alcohol addiction but feel helpless to stop drinking.