The Beginnings of Alcohol Abuse: Why Using Alcohol to Relax is a Bad Idea
Considering how alcohol has become an acceptable indulgence within American culture, family get-togethers, celebratory occasions and even mealtimes all offer opportunities for drinking. This degree of validation can easily carry over to drinking within most any context, for any reason.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, alcohol abuse disorder affects an estimated 17 million Americans within any given year. Alcohol produces near immediate effects, enhancing a person’s mood and promoting feelings of relaxation. These characteristics make for a substance prone to high abuse rates.
Alcohol’s effects also offer an easily accessible remedy for relieving everyday stressors and pressures. The truth of matter is alcohol’s relaxing effects tend to take a turn for the worse when used as a coping mechanism on a regular basis.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Brain
While one or two drinks every now and then poses little threat of developing an alcohol abuse problem, falling into a daily pattern of drinking starts to break down the brain’s functional capacity. Alcohol acts as depressant, slowing chemical activities and weakening the brain cells that produce essential neurotransmitter materials, according to Scripps Research Institute. Over time, these effects create a state of physical dependence on alcohol’s effects.
Likewise, increasing damage to brain cell structures calls for increasingly larger amounts of alcohol in order to produce the desired relaxing effects. So getting in the habit of drinking after work or during periods of stress can have unintended effects that evolve into alcohol abuse behaviors.
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Cycles of Withdrawal
With regular or frequent drinking, alcohol’s effects eventually start to create chemical imbalances in the brain. Chemical imbalances not only increase the brain’s dependence on alcohol, but also impair its ability to regulate the body’s functions, according to Columbia University. When this happens, a person experiences withdrawal symptoms, some of which include:
- Feelings of depression
- Anxiety episodes
What started out as a way to relax brings on a range of symptoms that only work to increase a person’s discomfort and overall stress level. With continued alcohol abuse, these symptoms only worsen in severity and occur on a more frequent basis.
Alcohol’s slowing effects on brain activity inevitably take a toll on a person’s emotional well-being. It doesn’t take very long at all before cycles of withdrawal produce prolonged periods of depression and anxiety.
At this point, drinkers tend to engage in self-medicating practices in terms of using alcohol to relieve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Once emotional distress enters the picture, the tendency to self-medicate can quickly turn into a reflex response. These developments form the basis for a growing alcohol addiction.
Whenever a pattern of drinking starts to unfold within a person’s daily life, the makings for alcohol abuse are at work. Like most any other type of addictive substance, alcohol’s effects on the brain and body compound over time creating conditions for physical and psychological dependency to take hold.
In the absence of needed treatment help, getting and drinking alcohol soon becomes the focus within one’s daily life.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be engaging in alcohol abuse behaviors and have questions about available treatment options, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at to speak with one of our addictions specialists.