Alcohol, A Three-Headed Monster

Alcoholism is an issue in the United States that most people try to understand.  In the class Neurochemistry, the chemical world often bumps heads with the psychological world.  Alcohol abuse and ethanol’s effects on the brain were a great place to have that discussion again.  It should be added that there are large influences from society as well.


Being twenty-one years old has its advantages in a college area like Fargo-Moorhead, you can legally drink out at the bars and take advantage of the specials that the area has on alcohol that are almost unmatched anywhere else.  Think to yourself; is there a night of the week that there isn’t a drink special somewhere in FM?                It is so available and widely accepted especially at the college age that its consumption around the area is common.  However, leaving society’s role in alcohol consumption, the psychological role in alcohol consumption, addiction is the primary reason for the problem known as Alcoholism.


Alcoholism or being addicted to alcohol on a psychological level is a problem that can be seen in many different age groups, genders, and ethnicities.  What is the difference between being chemically addicted and psychologically addicted?


Well it was learned that in people who have alcoholism, there is a strong amount of activity in the pleasure center of the brain.  This was seen using PET scans of alcoholics verses the scans of their non-alcoholic counterparts.  More changes in the brain cause by alcohol addiction are that it can alter mood even when sober.  People who were addicted to alcohol actually showed greater responses to negative stimuli than people lacking alcohol addicting.  This might help explain why most alcoholics turn to a strong drink on a bad day.  It helps their brain try and equalize their reaction to negative stimuli.  It was shown that through the addition of alcohol many of the alcoholics had a lessened the response due to negative stimuli.


People usually develop a chemical addiction to alcohol along with their psychological addiction; this is part of the reason that it is so hard to rid someone of their alcohol problems.  It effects their body giving them sickening withdrawal symptoms as well makes them lose part of their psychological mechanism for dealing with stress or other negative stimuli.


So whether the reason is social, chemical, psychological, or some combination of all three, alcoholism is a very tricky addiction to treat even with today’s medicine.  It some cases it requires a lot of help from doctors, and family alike.