Addiction Awareness

Addiction, trauma and mental health

What is alcoholism?

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Alcoholism is defined as alcohol seeking and consumption behaviour that is harmful. The hallmarks of this disorder are addiction to alcohol, inability to stop drinking, and repeated interpersonal, school or work-related problems that can be directly attributed to the use of alcohol. Alcoholism can have serious consequences, affecting an individual’s health and personal life, as well as impacting society at large.

Alcohol dependence is a complex disorder that includes the social and interpersonal issues mentioned above, and also includes biological elements. These elements are related to tolerance and withdrawal, cognitive problems that include craving, and behavioural abnormalities including the impaired ability to stop drinking. Withdrawal is a term that refers to the symptoms that occur when a person dependent on a substance stops taking that substance for a period of time; withdrawal symptoms vary in type and severity depending on the substance, but alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include shaking, irritability, and nausea. Tolerance is a reduced response to the alcohol consumed and can be acute or chronic. Acute tolerance occurs during a single episode of drinking and is greater when blood alcohol concentration rises. Chronic tolerance occurs over the long term when there is greater resistance to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, and, as a result, the affected person has to drink more to achieve desired effect.

Behaviourally, alcohol consumption is related to internal or external feedback. Internal feedback is the internal state a person experiences during and after alcohol consumption. External feedback is made up of the cues that other people send the person when he or she drinks. Internal states pertaining to alcohol can include shame or hangover. Alcohol-related external cues can include reprimands, criticism, or encouragement. People may drink to the point of dependence because of peer pressure, acceptance in a peer group, or because drinking is related to specific moods (easygoing, relaxed, calm, sociable) that are related to the formation of intimate relationships.
Biologically, repeated use of alcohol can impair the brain levels of a “pleasure” neurotransmitter called dopamine. When a person is dependent on alcohol, his or her brain areas that produce dopamine become depleted and the individual can no longer enjoy the pleasures of everyday life – his or her brain chemistry is rearranged to depend on alcohol for transient euphoria

Individuals who are alcohol-dependent compulsively drink ethanol alcohol to the level of intoxication. Intoxication occurs at blood alcohol levels of 50 to 150 mg/dl and is characterized by euphoria at first, and then if blood concentrations of alcohol continue to rise, a person can become explosively combative. Neurologically, acute intoxication causes impaired thinking, lack of coordination, slow or irregular eye movements, and impaired vision. As the person repeatedly drinks, the body develops a reduced response to ethanol called tolerance
People with chronic tolerance may apparently be sober even after consumption of alcohol that could cause death in non-drinkers.

People with alcohol dependence also develop alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The nervous system adapts to chronic ethanol exposure by increasing the activity of nerve cell mechanisms that counteract alcohol’s depressant effects. Therefore, when drinking is abruptly reduced, the affected person develops disordered perceptions, seizures and tremors (often accompanied by irritability, nausea, and vomiting). Tremor of the hands called “morning shakes,” usually occurs in the morning due to overnight abstinence. The most serious manifestation of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is delirium tremens, which occurs in approximately 5% of people dependent on alcohol. Delirium tremens consists of agitation, disorientation, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, intense sweating, fever, and increased heart rate (tachycardia). This state is a medical emergency because it can be fatal, and affected persons must be immediately hospitalized and treated with medications that control vital physiological functions.


August 6, 2010 Posted by | addiction, alcohol, alcoholism, dependency | , , , | 1 Comment

About Addiction

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One in three people suffer from an addiction. It breaks up families, damages communities and destroys lives. In some way it touches us all.

Despite this, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about addiction – what it is, who it effects and how to get help and support. Addiction is characterised by a consuming relationship with a substance or behaviour that is driven by a conscious or unconscious desire to feel something different, which results in a range of harmful consequences.

An addiction is defined as a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity. It can therefore refer to more than just alcohol, drugs and nicotine.

Gambling addiction is the fastest growing addiction problem in the UK. Like any other addiction it can be tackled effectively through treatment and rehabilitation.
Addictive relationships can include other behaviours such as sex, shopping and exercise. It is important for an addicted person to understand the connections between different compulsive behaviours as they can reinforce addictive behaviour and increase the risk of relapse.

Types of addiction

Physical dependency

This is caused when repeated use of a substance changes your body’s chemistry and you become physically dependent.

Psychological dependency

This is caused when you repeat certain behaviour, such as drug and alcohol use, until your mind is hooked on that pattern of behaviour, causing mental cravings.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | addiction, dependency, physical, psychological | , , , | Leave a comment