In a small number of individuals, prolonged, severe alcohol misuse ultimately leads to cognitive impairment and frank dementia. Studies have shown a strong link between a person’s genetic makeup and the likelihood that they will develop an addiction. Your family history, other genetic disorders, and your ethnicity may all be risk factors for addiction.

is alcohol addictive and why

This begins a vicious cycle of needing more and more alcohol to reach the level that you’re used to. Learn about the factors that lead to alcoholism and why alcohol is addictive. You don’t need to make a New Year’s resolution to prioritize your mental health or take the steps toward recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help. Traumatic experiences in the past, including childhood abuse, are strongly linked to developing alcoholism later in life, the NIAAA says. If you have a parent or a close relative with alcohol addiction, your risk goes up. Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for AUD, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Alcohol Use

During this time, a person can become chemically or psychologically dependent on the substance. There are cases where someone can use and even abuse alcohol for lengthy periods without developing an alcohol addiction, which is a reason why not all college binge drinkers will become alcoholics. There are varying factors that can lead to alcoholism, such as genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. Women develop long-term complications of alcohol dependence more rapidly than do men, women also have a higher mortality rate from alcoholism than men. Examples of long-term complications include brain, heart, and liver damage and an increased risk of breast cancer. Additionally, heavy drinking over time has been found to have a negative effect on reproductive functioning in women. This results in reproductive dysfunction such as anovulation, decreased ovarian mass, problems or irregularity of the menstrual cycle, and early menopause.

Long-term, excessive alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, colon and breast cancers. Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer. FASDs can cause a child to be born with physical and developmental problems that last why is alcohol addictive a lifetime. Heavy drinking can cause increased fat in the liver and inflammation of the liver . Over time, heavy drinking can cause irreversible destruction and scarring of liver tissue . People with a history of emotional trauma or other trauma are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol dependence – alcohol abuse combined with tolerance, withdrawal, and an uncontrollable drive to drink. The term « alcoholism » was split into « alcohol abuse » and « alcohol dependence » in 1980’s DSM-III, and in 1987’s DSM-III-R behavioral symptoms were moved from « abuse » to « dependence ». Some scholars suggested that DSM-5 merges alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence into a single new entry, named « alcohol-use disorder ». Excessive alcohol use can damage all organ systems, but it particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system.

This is why people often don’t understand that they have a problem; they claim to feel normal,” Drosnes says. It is important to note that alcohol’s effects on the brain are self-reinforcing, and tend to worsen over time. All told, the symptoms of withdrawal can persist for a few weeks, but generally a user will begin to feel some relief from physical symptoms in about 72 hours. The length of withdrawal is highly dependent on how long a user was heavily drinking, and each person metabolizes alcohol differently.

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