Each year, 15 million American adults meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. Although alcohol is legal, it is physically and psychologically addictive. Withdrawing from alcohol without help from an alcohol detox center is dangerous because some withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens and seizures, are potentially fatal. Alcoholism can develop within weeks, months, or years of your first drink. Alcoholism does not discriminate, meaning anyone can develop an alcohol dependency.
While alcohol can temporarily cause happiness or contentment, abusing alcohol can cause significant neurotransmitter imbalances. Alcohol and dopamine are connected because alcohol is a dopamine inhibitor and alcoholism damages dopamine receptors.
Learn More About Alcohol and Dopamine
Alcohol is a neurotransmitter inhibitor, making alcohol and dopamine strongly connected. When you drink, your brain releases a rush of dopamine, which causes the pleasurable feelings you experience during intoxication. Your liver can filter one serving of alcohol every 90 minutes, which is why alcoholism can cause significant liver damage.
Alcohol and dopamine receptors are a dangerous combination, as alcoholism causes your brain to become incapable of releasing neurotransmitters when you are sober. Once intoxication ends, you experience a depletion of dopamine, which causes cravings and negative moods. Alcoholism can permanently damage neurotransmitter receptors, which is why early treatment from an inpatient alcohol rehab center is essential.
During alcoholism, your tolerance increases and drinking becomes your main priority. Alcoholism can cause you to:
- Experience conflict with friends and family members
- Develop medical and mental health problems
- Become physically dependent on alcohol
- Feel depressed and anxious
- Prioritize drinking over your family, career, and health
When you have difficulty reducing or stopping your alcohol consumption, or if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you attempt sobriety, it is important to reach out for help.
How is Alcoholism Treated?
Alcoholism can be treated at an inpatient or outpatient alcohol abuse treatment center. Inpatient programs can also offer medically supervised detox services, which reduces the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of your last drink and typically alleviate within one week.
During treatment, it takes time for your brain to re-learn how to produce and release neurotransmitters, which can cause mood changes. If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, a dual diagnosis addiction treatment program ensures that both of your conditions are treated at the same time. Failing to treat your mental health symptoms increases your risk of relapsing, as symptoms can serve as a powerful trigger during recovery.
Both inpatient and outpatient alcohol treatment programs can offer:
- Cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy
- Individual, group, and family counseling
- Holistic therapies, such as meditation and acupuncture
- Relapse prevention education
You can choose to reside at a sober living home following treatment, which can improve your recovery outcomes. It is important to avoid all psychoactive substances during recovery, as developing alcohol dependency increases your risk of becoming addicted to other substances.
Reaching Out for Help
Since alcohol and dopamine are connected, alcoholism can lead to significant alterations to your brain chemistry. Alcoholism can lead to permanent conditions, such as hepatitis, which makes it essential to receive treatment. While alcoholism can make you feel isolated and hopeless, recovery is always possible.