Alcoholism isn’t a disease, it’s a choice



Alcoholism isn’t a disease, it’s a choice
QUESTION
One of your clients states, “Alcoholism isn’t a disease, it’s a choice.” How would you respond to this statement? What does neurobiological research find on this issue?
Alcoholism isn’t a disease, it’s a choice

ANSWER
Alcoholism

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Alcoholism
An individual is unable to control their alcohol intake despite the obvious problems that arise after taking it, and another is unable to control their alcohol use. These scenarios often result in a continuous need for individuals to take alcohol to achieve the same level of euphoria. Sadly, society often sees alcoholism as a choice when it is a disorder caused by genetic, neurobiological, psychological, and social factors surrounding the alcoholics. This segment will thus serve to inform the client of the causes and what research says about alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a medical condition that involves continuous alcohol use despite the problems associated with taking the substance. It is a brain disease and requires treatment, whether psychological or pharmacological, to regain normal brain function. Most people abuse alcohol because of the social and psychological factors surrounding them, and they have genetic and neurobiological factors that expedite their addiction.
The initial decision to take alcohol is usually voluntary, but with continuous use, an individual’s ability to exercise self-control gets impaired by the alcohol (Uhl et al., 2019). The neurobiology of addiction says that addictive substances tap into the brain’s communication system and interfere with normal functions. The natural brain system has a reward system based on behaviors like good taste, physical activity, what we listen to, and many more. However, addictive substances take advantage of this mechanism and flood the brain with dopamine. They are responsible for releasing two to ten times more of the amount of dopamine that natural rewards release, which explains why some become addicted so quickly. Eventually, individuals have to continue taking drugs or alcohol to achieve normalcy.
Addictive substances also impair the frontal cortex, part of the brain responsible for self-control and the ability to make sound decisions. The substances promote habit-formation by addictive substances and suppress synapses that inhibit the process. The result is an individual unable to control the intake of any addictive substance, alcohol included. Some individuals also have genetics that predisposes them to alcohol addiction (“Genetics of alcoholism: Hereditary factors of alcohol use,” 2021). There is no specific gene that causes addiction; rather a combination of genes that have strong relationships to alcoholism.
These reasons thus enlighten individuals on the science of addiction and break the myths and misconceptions surrounding addiction disorder. 
References
Genetics of alcoholism: Hereditary factors of alcohol use. (2021, June 16). Addiction Center. https://www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/genetics-of-alcoholism/
Uhl, G. R., Koob, G. F., & Cable, J. (2019). The neurobiology of addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1451(1), 5-28. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13989

Alcoholism isn’t a disease, it’s a choice


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