The physical and mental effects of alcohol
There are three main theories when it comes to the development of addiction. These are the disease/genetic theory, environmental and the academic theory. This is a research on the effect that alcohol has on the body and brain leading to addiction.
The physical and mental effects of psychoactive drugs
Alcohol like other psychoactive drugs affects the brain mostly. It interferes with the transmission of impulses in the brain and the central nervous system. Alcohol is able to penetrate the protective wall of the capillaries that surround the nerve cells of the central nervous system. The brain and the protective wall are fatty alcohol is fat soluble it is able to penetrate into the system. Alcohol aims to affect the central nervous system which comprise of the spinal cord and the brain. It affects the communication processes of the brain by influencing the way that the nerve cells send, receive and process information. Alcohol alters the messages being sent by the nervous system. The nervous system consists of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
Alcoholism also leads to the damage of the body organs. The liver gets damaged and where it is severe, it leads to a condition known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis leads to liver failure and cancer and the individual may die. The liver is an organ that takes care of the wastes and the toxins in the body. If it is not working properly, the person’s life is in danger. The liver
gets highly affected since it breaks down the alcohol that is consumed.
Alcoholism also leads to inflammation of the digestive system. The inflammation can lead to ulceration which is dangerous for the individual. Food does not get properly digested or absorbed well where the individual has inflamed stomach. The inflammation of the stomach also leads to other conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney failure and pancreatitis. Alcohol reduces the flow of blood to the muscles causing muscle aches. It also leads to high blood pressure. It also causes irregular heartbeats where the individual has to be rushed to the emergency wards. These cardiovascular conditions may eventually cause heart failure or stroke.
The peripheral system takes care of the involuntary functions of the brain such as respiration, digestion and circulation. The drugs also affect the involuntary processes of the body. Excessive alcohol also affects the involuntary processes such as breathing and the gag reflex that prevents choking. There are people who have vomited while in deep sleep which can be fatal in the event that they start choking. Alcohol also enhances cravings. It affects the reward or reinforcement center in the brain which reminds the individual of a previous activity and encourages him or her to repeat it. The drugs therefore affect the reward pathway to cause the individual to long for euphoria or pain relief.
There are three main theories when it comes to the development of alcohol addiction.
In the disease or genetic theory, the individual gets addicted to the drug due to heredity characteristics. The disease is triggered by drug use which affects the biochemical and neurological irregularities that exist in the individual (Inaba and William, 75). Addiction can also be aggravated by environmental or psychological factors which cause the individual to continually use drugs. If the individual is experiencing stress, peer pressure or certain forms
of abuse he or she may decide to take drugs continually leading to addiction.
The academic model on the other hand sees addiction as being the result of the body adapting to the toxic effects of drugs. Any individual who takes drugs over a certain period of time will get addicted. The process is therefore characterized by tissue dependence, psychological dependence and reinforcement action. The tissue dependence approach refers to the body making biological adaptations to the drug such that it needs the drug for the individual to be functional. The individual can also begin tolerating the drug. Once the drug enters the body attempts to eliminate the drug and treats it as a toxin. As the individual consumes the drugs more and more the body starts to require higher amounts to achieve the original effects. There is also the psychological dependence which is related to the reward reinforcing actions of the drugs.
The pleasurable effects that arise due to the drug use induce the user to take on more drugs leading to addiction. The perceptions of the individual are distorted and he or she desires to avoid life’s problems. Once an individual is addicted, when they stop using the drug they face severe withdrawal symptoms. Due to fear of facing the physiological effects of withdrawal such as vomiting, sweating, body aches and tremors. The body therefore gets addicted to the drugs as it attempts to avoid the negative reinforcement.
This three model approach to addiction has been supported by other studies that have been carried out on the causes of alcohol addiction. Family members who have history of dependence on alcohol have a higher risk of alcohol addiction.
In addition, researchers have identified genes that are responsible for raising an individual susceptibility to alcohol addiction. It is not however clear cut that heredity alone can lead to alcohol addiction. It is a combination of so many other factors (SAMSA, 2). When the heredity is combined with environmental or academic theory of addiction, the individual even has a higher risk of alcohol addiction (Dick and Agrawal, 118). The environment in homes with alcoholic parents usually is very chaotic. There may be physical or emotional abuse, neglect and lack of family communication. The lack of support may cause the children once they are older to seek a source of escape in the form of alcoholism. The lack of great role models also contributes to their alcoholism as some choose the same way of life that their parents chose.
The child of an alcoholic faces a risk however he can avoid becoming an alcoholic through such efforts as education and self-monitoring. At the same time the neurochemical reactions in the brain caused by repeated alcohol use may lead to dependence even though the individual does not have any genetic vulnerability to alcohol dependence. Repeated alcohol abuse will cause the body to tolerate and depend on alcohol for survival. In case a person wants to stop there will be severe withdrawal symptoms. To avoid the pain associated with these withdrawal symptoms the individual will continue drinking alcohol.
The physiological and mental effects of the drugs in the body lead to addiction and there have been several theories proposed on the development of addiction. Addiction may develop either through hereditary, environmental or academic approaches. Based on the mode of addiction, the treatment becomes more focused and efficient.
Danielle, Dick and Agrawal, Arpana. “The Genetics of Alcohol and Other Drug
Dependence”. Alcohol Research and Health, 31.2: 111-118. Web. 20th April, 2012.
Inaba, Darryl and Cohen William. Uppers, Downers, All Arounders. Physical and
Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. United States: Cns Productions. 2006. Print.
SAMSA. “What You Should Know About Alcohol Problems”. Substance Abuse in
Brief, 2.1: 1-6. 2003. Web. 20th April, 2012.