Christmas and New Year is a time when we are faced with more opportunities to consume alcohol than during the rest of the year. Work parties, family get togethers and a general sense of ‘enjoying’ oneself, can lead to many of us consuming more alcohol than we are used to.
For some, this is a once a year affair. Once the decorations are packed away for another year, we stop cracking open the mulled wine at any opportunity. However, there is not getting away from the fact that alcohol is very addictive and so, for some, this time of year can be the start of a possible addiction.
But how do you know if you are at risk of being dependent on alcohol or it becoming a problem in your life? The following 10 signs are a good indicator that you may be developing an alcohol problem.
For anyone who has had a drink problem and is now sober, this time of year can be particularly challenging. Finding the right balance of alcohol consumption for you is key to staying in control of what is a highly addictive substance.
Alcohol in itself isn’t addictive, but the chemical reactions is causes in your brain are. Alcohol increases the amount of one of your neurotransmitters, ‘GABA’ which inhibits the way the brain works. This is why drunk people often stagger or slur their words. Our brain grows tolerant to increased levels of GABA, meaning we can drink more without the same effects.
Dopamine, the brain’s feel good chemical is released when we consume alcohol, ‘rewarding’ the brain and making us feel good. Endorphins are also released when we consume alcohol, further making us feel good. So, as we drink more, we can tolerate it more (the GABA effect) and the more alcohol we drink the more dopamine / endorphins are released, but as we grow more tolerant of these chemicals, we need to drink more to get the same buzz… and so it continues.
With increased level of alcohol consumption, the brain produces less dopamine and becomes ‘resistant’ to its effect. There can be really unpleasant side effects when we stop drinking, the shakes, sickness, anxiety and fever amongst other. And how can you get rid of them.. by having another drink. So it’s not the alcohol itself that is addictive, it’s the impact it has on your brain.