Some individuals consume alcohol in moderate quantities over the course of their entire adult lives. They may drink when they attend a party or get together with friends, but they rarely consume more than a drink or two, and almost never drink to excess.
Other individuals try alcohol for the first time, and each subsequent drink seems as if it is driving toward alcoholism. Understanding the factors that influence whether addiction develops is an important step toward developing strategies that are effective for prevention and education, as well as for intervention where addiction has already taken hold.
Signs Of The Development Of Alcohol Dependence
The development of alcohol dependence bears a resemblance to most other compulsive behaviors. The pursuit of alcohol begins to outweigh other priorities, sought after at the expense of personal relationships, family commitments and even academic or professional responsibilities.
Alcohol Abuse’s Effects On Friends And Family
As a result, the individual begins to suffer ruptures in their social networks, as well as stagnation or even dismissal in their work or school roles. Loved ones may watch in confusion and frustration as they wonder how the drinking individual can make such poor calculations in their ordering of priorities.
Given the stresses on family relationships and employment, it is no wonder that many who are addicted to alcohol also experience financial hardship and loneliness. Recovery from alcohol dependence can significantly improve the patient’s quality of life.
Can a predisposition to alcohol abuse be predicted and prevented? A recent study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry examined the reaction of 104 young adult heavy social drinkers to alcohol in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study design. The researchers found that individuals that receive a stronger level of stimulation and a greater reward from consuming large amounts of alcohol were more likely to develop an addiction to it.
The participants that most enjoyed the effects of heavy drinking while in their 20s were the individuals most likely to develop alcohol-related problems by the time they were in their 30s.
The study’s findings highlight the potential damage of heavy drinking while in early adulthood. Generally in this time period, young adults are finishing up their education and beginning to transition to full-time work and possibly even getting married and beginning a family.
The impact of alcohol-related problems on this period of life is far-reaching. An individual who develops alcohol dependence may derail the beginnings of married and family life, as well as a new career.
Preventing Alcohol Dependence
Helping young adults avoid the development of alcohol dependence is an important focus of prevention efforts. Based on the study’s findings, young adults may be educated and trained to recognize whether they have a particularly strong reaction to the positive effects of alcohol.
A person who recognizes a strong reward response may be able to watch for signs that alcohol is taking on a prioritized role and make plans to limit alcohol intake. The individual may even be able to talk with family members, roommates and friends to get support in their watchfulness for troublesome alcohol-related behaviors.
Factors That Influence Alcohol Addiction And How To Learn From Them
Family history, environmental influences and genetic factors all play a role in the development of an alcohol addiction. No single risk factor guarantees that a person will develop alcohol-related problems, but instead each addiction can appear to be a unique combination of risk factors creating a perfect storm for addiction.
With information about how addiction takes hold, however, education and prevention strategies can be developed to address specific risks. Those individuals that have an increased risk for developing alcoholism can be targeted for education and trained in ways to avoid addiction.
The study’s findings indicate that individuals in their early 20s should watch for signs that alcohol is particularly enjoyable to them, and take steps to limit consumption. They may be able to keep their lives on the right path by not allowing alcohol consumption to escalate into addiction.
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