How Addictive is Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world. In the United States, nearly 56% of adults consume alcohol at least once a month, while more than 1 in 4 adults binge drinks monthly. Drinking is common at many social events, which can sometimes make it hard to avoid. Even though alcohol remains legal, it can lead to abuse and dependency. But how addictive is alcohol?

Despite the fact that all psychoactive substances, and even certain behaviors, can lead to addiction, alcohol can cause physical dependency. There is also no timeline for how long it takes between your first drink and dependency, as alcoholism can accelerate rapidly.

How Addictive is Alcohol?

If you are wondering how addictive is alcohol, 33% of Americans will develop an alcohol abuse disorder in their lifetime, making it the most commonly abused substance in the country.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and neurotransmitter inhibitor that can alter your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Alcohol intoxication can decrease your inhibitions, increasing your chances of engaging in dangerous, risky or criminal behavior. Ethanol, which is the active ingredient in alcohol that produces the intoxicating effects, can damage your liver and is lethal in large amounts. When you drink too much, too quickly, you can experience alcohol poisoning, which is fatal if left untreated.

When you drink, alcohol forces your brain to release a rush of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that creates relaxing and pleasurable moods. Once intoxication ends, you have a depletion of GABA which can make you feel depressed, anxious or moody. Recreational drinking can quickly transition into abuse, as more than 6% of adults abuse alcohol on a monthly basis. Since alcohol can lead to dependency, continual abuse can lead to addiction. But how addictive is alcohol?

Alcoholism causes your brain to depend on alcohol in order to feel normal. When you immediately stop drinking, you can begin to experience mild-to-severe detox symptoms. Detox symptoms can last for several days and make it difficult to remain sober.

How is Alcoholism Treated?

Because alcoholism causes severe physical dependencies, inpatient treatment is typically necessary for at least the detox process. While most alcohol withdrawal symptoms last for no more than one week, it can take time for your body and mind to recover. Your brain has to relearn how to properly release neurotransmitters while your body recovers from the wear and tear of alcohol abuse.

Some of the most effective treatments for alcoholism include:

  • Short-term and long-term inpatient programs
  • Intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs
  • Medically supervised detox services
  • Dual diagnosis and trauma-based programs
  • Evidence-based and holistic therapies

The length of your treatment program depends on your individual needs and recovery goals as you try to answer the question of how addictive is alcohol. Inpatient programs are best utilized if you have severe alcohol dependency or would benefit from the increased structure and supervision. Both inpatient and outpatient programs also offer evidence-based treatments, like cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy. Evidence-based therapies focus on providing you with improved problem-solving and coping skills, which can decrease your risk of relapsing.

Holistic therapies, like yoga and meditation, help treat your body, mind, and spirit and can be used in combination with evidence-based therapies. A major benefit of holistic therapies is that they have limited side-effects and can improve your cognition, memory, and health.

Finding Treatment for Alcoholism Today

Alcoholism can damage your personal, financial and familial life and lead to devastating consequences. Abusing alcohol can lead to medical problems, such as liver damage, and strained relationships. If you are wondering how addictive is alcohol, the simple answer is that alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependency. If you are ready to take the first steps in your recovery journey, call us today at 1.844.768.1161.


the right step dfw logoThe Right Step Dallas provides mental health treatment and treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction at their center located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. At The Right Step Dallas, each individual receives a care program designed around their needs, so that they can be provided with the skills and tools for lasting recovery. Programs at the Right Step Dallas include the full continuum of care and provide support at any stage of recovery. Learn more here.

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