Alcoholism doesn’t get as much attention as addiction does lately because of the overwhelming opioid addiction epidemic sweeping the globe. Alcoholism is, in my regards, an addiction to alcohol. Before drug addiction became a pervasive issue, alcoholism was the root of many people’s trouble. Alcoholism wasn’t even a term until the early 1900’s when men and women were losing their jobs, troubling their homes, and finding themselves regularly institutionalized all because of their inability to stop consuming alcohol. They were characterized as outcasts, trouble makers, desolates, derelicts, and refuges of society. Today, alcoholics continue to face a damaging and stigmatizing stereotype. Someone who “chooses” to become an alcoholic is lacking in self control, has no cares about anyone other than themselves, and is an outcast of society.
This is all true, as science has pointed out, but not because there is something wrong with the alcoholic. An alcoholic is someone who has fallen sick.
Alcoholism is a brain disease which can be classified as chronically relapsing and remitting. Brain imaging research and insight into the neuroscience of addiction and alcoholism in the brain have revealed that the way alcohol affects the brain causes many of the “defects” of character used against alcoholics. For example, lacking in control. Alcohol affects many areas of the brain including the cognitive areas of the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens where the reward center lives. In the prefrontal cortex there are many cognitive functions or executive functions which include decision making and judgment. When alcohol takes over the brain it loses its ability to make decisions using good judgment. Additionally, it loses its meter of what constitutes “enough”. Losing control isn’t just about losing the ability to make decisions regarding alcohol. It is also about being constitutionally incapable of recognizing when enough is enough. As alcohol takes over the brain it also takes over the body and causes a disconnect. Both systems falter in their ability to communicate with one another and send signals to let each know when it has had enough. Consequently, there is an problem with regulation and considering the impact of continuing to drink.
Alcoholism is not a matter of morality or personal choice. Quite the opposite, alcoholism is what happens when someone loses their ability to choose. The brief moment of clarity which allows someone to reach out and ask for help, choosing sobriety over inebriation, is rare and important. If you are concerned you might have a problem with alcohol, help is available. Let Aurora Recovery Center light the way to lifelong recovery. For information on our treatment programs, call us at 844-515-STOP.