How Alcohol Hijacks the Brain

Asheville alcohol rehab centerHaving a drink or two after a long day or going out with friends to celebrate by consuming alcohol seems harmless to many people. It is possible to just have one or two drinks, but the likelihood of that is small. Most people who choose to have one or two alcoholic beverages tend to have three or four, or more. Eventually, alcohol abuse is prevalent. Know that our Asheville alcohol rehab center is always ready to talk when you need us.

Stress is a problem that many people face today. Whether it's stress at home, at work or school, everyone experiences some sort of stress throughout their day. Blowing off steam and relaxing becomes the focus after a full day or week of this. Unfortunately, stress response can lead to further issues with alcohol. Using stress as an excuse to have a few drinks can be dangerous.

Stress can activate our hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. This increases corticotropin production. To better understand it, this is the molecule that stimulates our fight or flight response. In addition, our opioid pathway is intermingled with this. Alcohol changes our opioid pathway.

For those who have a couple of drinks each time they get overly stressed, their body recognizes the “reward”. Unfortunately, over time, becoming stressed will cause the brain to want alcohol. Then, a cycle begins to form. Every time you feel stressed, you immediately want to drink alcohol.

In the beginning, you chose to have a couple of drinks to blow off steam after work. However, doing so several times a week or more can be dangerous because it alters your brain into believing that alcohol is needed in order to de-stress and relax.

Alcohol affects the brain differently than other substances known to be abused. Amphetamines, opiates, marijuana and other drugs stimulate specific neurotransmitters and systems. Alcohol can interact with a variety of neurotransmitter systems because it is such a small molecule. Below, you will find several ways that alcohol interacts with these systems. If you're searching for an Asheville alcohol rehab center you can trust, call Legacy Freedom.

  • Through the bloodstream, adrenaline is carried to our brains. When alcohol is consumed, it causes adrenaline to be released from the adrenal glands. This causes alcohol to act like a stimulant.
  • The area of our brain that houses dopamine systems becomes compromised when alcohol is consumed. It is also compromised when other drugs and stimulants are used. However, alcohol causes a direct effect, as it acts like a stimulant. Other drugs do not affect it directly.
  • Norepinephrine is a chemical in the brain that is increased when alcohol is in the system. It is one of the main reasons that our bodies perceive alcohol as a stimulant instead of just a depressant.
  • When too much alcohol is in the system, memory issues, slurred speech, the inability to walk straight and decreased motor skills are a result. This is because the glutamate system is affected by the consumption.
  • We all know that endorphins are released after a rigorous workout. Endorphins make us feel happy. Unfortunately, alcohol affects our endorphins in a way that is similar to using opiates. It acts like a pain reliever. It also gives us the drunk feeling.
  • Our GABA system is affected when alcohol is consumed. This gives us a feeling of drowsiness and relaxation. It is very similar to how you may feel when taking a Valium or other type of sedative-like drug.

Though alcohol affects our dopamine system, it doesn't technically increase dopamine directly. It does, however, affect the overall area. Because this is the area of our brain that recognizes reward, alcohol abuse is heightened.

Asheville alcohol rehab centerOver time, alcohol abuse causes neuroadaptation. You might find that having one or two drinks every day after work seems harmless. For some, it could be possible to stick with one or two each day. However, many people build up a tolerance over time. That means one or two becomes three or four, three or four becomes six or eight. Below, you will find several ways your system changes once neuroadaptation has occurred. If you have a drinking problem, please call Legacy Freedom. You'll love our outpatient Asheville alcohol rehab center.

Tolerance –  According to “An organism that is chronically exposed to alcohol develops tolerance to its functional (e.g., motor-impairing) effects (LeBlanc et al. 1975), metabolic effects (Wood and Laverty 1979), and reinforcing properties (Walker and Koob 2007). Once tolerance to the pleasurable (i.e., hedonic) effects of alcohol develops, the individual requires gradually higher doses of alcohol to produce the same effect previously experienced at lower doses.”

Sensitization – Over time, people begin to like the effects of alcohol. Then, they start depending on them. They want the effects more and more. So much so, it becomes a dependency. also states that “The incentive sensitization theory of addiction posits that addictive drugs activate a common neural system responsible for attributing incentive salience to events and stimuli associated with the activation of that system (Robinson and Berridge 1993).”

Withdrawal – Many people understand the overall idea of withdrawal but have no idea what it’s really like until they experience it. It’s more than a mere craving. Withdrawal comes after alcohol abuse has been established and chronic consumption is underway. Abruptly taking alcohol away from our systems can lead to harmful symptoms. states that “The removal of alcohol reliably produces a constellation of withdrawal symptoms, some of which increase the motivation to seek and ingest alcohol (i.e., have motivational significance).”

We hope this information helps you better understand alcohol abuse and how it can affect your brain. Because it directly affects your systems, as opposed to the indirect effects of some commonly used drugs, the effects are far different and much more complicated.

Sometimes, we rely so much on alcohol that it becomes a dependency. We might not even realize the addiction is there. That's why our alcohol rehab programs can help. Our holistic approach to customized therapy offers the best solution for addiction. You don't have to miss work or school in order to recover. You can go on about your daily routine and implement our programs into your typical day.

Outpatient Asheville Alcohol Rehab Center You Can Trust

If you, or someone you love, are suffering from an alcohol or substance abuse problem and need help, consider Legacy Freedom. We're a top rated Asheville alcohol rehab center. Addiction isn’t something that can be beaten easily. Often it requires extensive rehab and support. Our outpatient treatment center can offer both to you, when you’re ready. Addiction can leave you feeling sad, lonely, and angry. You are not alone. Legacy Freedom of Asheville is here to help you get back on track to a happier, healthy, drug free life with the best treatment in the area.

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