Alcohol addiction can be influenced by a number of factors. Most people use alcohol socially to change how they feel because they want to feel better or different. They use alcohol for the perceived benefits, or the benefits experienced, not for the potential harm. People use alcohol to relax, have fun, to be part of a group, out of curiosity, and to escape from physical and/or psychological pain. Many of the reasons young people use alcohol are the same reasons adults use alcohol.
What causes alcohol addiction?
Many factors influence a person's initial alcohol use. Personality characteristics, peer pressure, and psychological stress can all contribute to the early stage of alcohol abuse. These factors are less important as alcohol use continues and the person repeatedly experiences the potent pharmacological effects.
This chemical action, which stimulates certain brain systems, produces the addiction, while other psychological and social factors become less and less important in influencing the individual's behavior. When the pharmacological action of a drug dominates the individual's behavior and the normal psychological and social control of behavior is no longer effective, the addiction is fully developed. This self-perceived "loss of control" is a common feature of alcohol addiction and reflects the biological nature of the problem. People who are physically dependent on alcohol usually develop a tolerance. This means that they need to drink more and more to get the same effect.
Since alcohol so easily permeates every cell and organ of the body, the physical effects of chronic alcohol abuse are wide-ranging and complex. Large doses of alcohol invade the body's fluids and interfere with metabolism in every cell. Alcohol damages the liver, the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the heart. Alcoholics who do not quit drinking, decrease life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.
Alcohol also can impair vision, impair sexual function, slow circulation, cause malnutrition, cause water retention (resulting in weight gain and bloating), lead to pancreatitis and skin disorders (such as middle-age acne), dilate blood vessels near the skin causing "brandy nose," weaken the bones and muscles, and decrease immunity.
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