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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Alcohol Addiction - Dependence Verses Abuse



Is there a difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse? The answer to that lies in the stages of alcohol addiction. Alcohol dependence is defined as losing control over your drinking, drinking compulsively, being preoccupied with drinking and developing a tolerance to alcohol. 

The person involved will also experience withdrawal symptoms if denied alcohol. Essentially, he is an alcoholic. Now, alcohol abuse is characterized as abusing alcohol to the point that it interferes with work, school and/or home obligations, developing social or legal problems resulting from your drinking and continuing to drink even in hazardous situations.

Signs or symptoms that someone you know may be hiding an alcohol addiction are depressed or withdrawn behavior, less productivity in work or school, blood shot eyes, constant alcohol smell on clothing and breath, impulsive and/or aggressive behavior, loss of appetite and insomnia. 

If you notice that your friend just cannot seem to have a good time without drinking alcohol and just about every time you see them, they have an alcoholic drink in their hand, there may be reason for concern. And just because a person can go several days without a drink, does not mean they do not have a problem with alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction is a sickness of the mind and body with some 14 million people suffering from it.  Many wish to recover, but even Alcoholics Anonymous’ statistics admits that 45% of the people who attend meetings never return after their first meeting. And 95% never return after the first year with only 5% of those remaining in the program until recovery. 

Their own statistics report a 3% success rate. Even at that, many will relapse into previous drinking behavior. Even some of the most successful rehab programs in the country like St. Judes Retreat in New York boasts only a 62% success rate and most of these types of programs are very expensive ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars.

On a positive note, some amazing research and treatments are being formulated for Alcohol Addiction at Wake Forest Baptist University Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A pilot study was conducted with monkeys and the connection between low Serotonin levels and Alcohol Addiction. 

It was discovered that monkeys with low Serotonin levels (a chemical naturally occurring in the brain that relaxes and calms) showed impulsive and aggressive behavior and tended to drink more alcohol as well. The conclusion makes sense, because teenagers typically have lower Serotonin levels and this is the point when many beginning abusing alcohol.

Alcohol also raises the level of Dopamine in the brain (a chemical that produces a natural euphoria), but abuse of alcohol makes the brain try to compensate for this by lowering the natural amount already present. This is why in a study conducted with mice, recovering alcoholic mice were the most depressed mice anyone had ever seen. This explains why many alcoholics return to their alcohol. 

The Wake Forest Medical Center is hoping to formulate a program of treatment that will consider the Serotonin related risk of developing alcoholism and the Dopamine effect on the brain. This would include the use of L-dopa to motivate people to stay off of alcohol. With more research like this in process, many people are hopeful in finding successful treatments for Alcohol Addiction.

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