Does your loved one consider himself a social drinker? Going out for cocktails or happy hours once in a while doesn’t necessarily make someone addicted to alcohol. But, how do you know if it has become a problem? How much is too much?
It’s important to know the distinction between drinking socially and struggling with addiction. It’s common for people suffering from alcoholism to hide their struggle, so as a loved one, it’s your job to dig deeper. Understanding exactly what is going on in the brain and in the body when someone develops alcoholism is the first step to identifying a problem and helping your loved one seek recovery.
How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Get Addicted?
While it would be amazing if there were a simple answer to this common question, it’s not quite as black and white as it seems. Some people become addicted after drinking for the very first time, while others develop an addiction over time. For many loved ones of alcoholics, they wonder when the addiction started and why.
Why Some People Become Addicted While Others Don’t
“How did my loved one get so addicted to alcohol?” and “Why can’t they seem to stop drinking?” are questions frequently asked by the parents, spouses or significant others of those struggling with alcohol addiction.
As baffling as drug addiction is to almost everyone, the origins of it are becoming much clearer as recent medical and other scientific research focuses on the functioning of the human brain under the influence of drugs. In fact, The Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has characterized addiction as a disease since 2011.
Based on what we know so far, addiction has both genetic and environmental triggers. While genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop an addiction, environmental factors have also been found to interact with a person’s biology and lead to alcoholism.
These environmental factors can include:
- The presence of an underlying biological deficit in the function of reward circuits in the brain
- The repeated engagement in drug use or other addictive behaviors
- Cognitive and affective distortions that affect an individual’s perceptions and ability to cope with feelings
- Disruption of healthy social supports and problems in interpersonal relationships
- Exposure to trauma or stressors that overwhelm an individual’s coping abilities
- Distortions in a person’s connection with the self, others or with the transcendent
- The presence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders
By understanding how someone becomes addicted to alcohol and the symptoms they display, you can better understand when your loved one is facing a problem.
How Alcohol Impacts the Brain and the Body
It’s easy to get lost in the science behind alcohol and how it affects the brain, but what is most important to understand is that when a person drinks, there are cognitive changes that occur.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. These depressant effects of alcohol can be as simple as a temporary loss of inhibitions, slurred speech, confusion or clumsiness. With recreational alcohol consumption, these symptoms usually wear off without any long-term damage. With prolonged alcohol consumption, the impacts are more long lasting and serious.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Unlike the short-term impact drinking has on a recreational drinker, someone who has developed alcoholism might experience more intense symptoms that could be a clear indication for you that they have a problem.
Some of the common symptoms include:
- Sensations of being hungover when not drinking
- Drinking alone or in secrecy
- Being unable to cut back
- Blacking out or memory lapses
- Finding excuses to drink more often
- Using alcohol as a way to deal with stress, anger, etc.
- Mood swings and irritability
Factors for Developing Alcoholism
The amount of alcohol it takes to impact the brain and body depends on each individual person’s system. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is the major contributing factor in how alcohol impacts a person’s brain functioning over time. Some of the additional factors that determine if someone is likely to develop alcoholism include:
- The frequency someone drinks
- The amount someone drinks
- The age someone started drinking
- Genetic factors
- Family history
- Health history
Every person is different and every person’s brain reacts differently to chemicals that are released when drinking. This is why you should always encourage your loved one to follow safe drinking habits. As a general guideline, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that men drink no more than 14 alcoholic beverages per week (a maximum of four in one day).
Find Remarkable Treatment at Spirit Mountain Recovery
If you have any concerns at all that your loved one is drinking more than they should, don’t waste time. It’s better to help your loved one make positive changes in their life now, rather than waiting for tomorrow.
Need help convincing your loved one to get the help they need? Spirit Mountain Recovery offers upscale alcohol rehabilitation in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah.
Our rehabilitation center focuses on showing clients that there is so much more to life than addiction by incorporating healthy, outdoor activities into treatment. We are proud to foster a remarkable atmosphere that focuses on stabilizing, educating and developing a sustainable recovery plan for our clients. Contact us today to learn how we can help.