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Alcohol Addiction: Definition and Causes

Question:

Discuss about the Alcohol Addiction.

The selected behaviour of discussion is alcohol addiction. This a behaviour that is observed in many individuals and cuts across various age groups, people of different socioeconomic status, both men and women, different cultures and even races. Alcohol addiction has many negative impacts and few positives if any. As such, it is true to conclude that this is a behaviour that should be reversed to help one live well. This paper shall discuss how to achieve change of the selected behaviour, the pros and cons of changing the behaviour, impact of behaviour change on lifestyle, and a reflection of the change journey.

Bagnardi, et al (2015) alcohol addiction can be defined as a chronic condition in which an individual’s body and mind becomes dependent on alcohol. There are various reasons why people drink alcohol for their first time. In most cases it’s usually to deal with a stressful situation or a horrible feeling. Taking alcohol creates the euphoria feeling and the individual momentarily forgets about their stressful situation. Due to the rewarding effect of alcohol, the individual soon results to taking alcohol when in a stressful situation and it gradually develops into a habit.

With time, the individual becomes used to alcohol and develops alcohol dependence. The brain has learnt to depend on alcohol to stimulate the reward system. The individual also needs more of the alcohol to achieve the same effect. At the final stage of addiction, the person has an obsessive need to drink and the amounts of alcohol taken become excessive (Jayne and Valentine 2016).

Alcohol use has been there since a long time ago. There are different reasons why people consume alcohol. Various communities across the globe also hold different values concerning alcohol use. From the health point of view, alcohol is a drug. Alcohol use is therefore drug abuse and the health professionals highly discourage its use. Its use among the teens is increasing and alarming.

Alcohol use has various effects on the user. These effects can be divided in to both long-term and short-term.

Short-term effects of alcohol use

Mostofsky  et al (2016) explains that depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and the physical condition of the person, alcohol use can cause: vomiting, unconsciousness, impaired judgements, headaches, drowsiness, slurred speech, upset stomach and breathing difficulties.

Long-term effects of alcohol use

Binge drinking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and drinking for a long period of time is associated with some health problems. These health conditions include: liver cirrhosis which is a liver disease, malnutrition mainly as a result of poor meal patterns and dietary intakes, cancer of the throat and the mouth, sexual problems, brain damage, hypertension and related heart condition among others. Vitamin B1 deficiency is also common in individuals who practise regular alcohol consumption. This is because alcohol hinders absorption of vitamin B1.

Wise and Koob (2014) argues that overcoming alcohol addiction is not an easy task. It’s in fact correct to say that achieving any kind of change is not an easy walk. Developing a habit takes time, and eliminating it also takes some time. At the end of the day, there is hope since any learned behaviour can be unlearned and replaced by a learning a new one. Alcohol addiction can be eliminated and the individual can return to their former selves.

Short-term and Long-term Effects of Alcohol Use

The individuals affected need to move from addiction to recovery. This could be viewed as a process. If the reward system is employed, that is, rewarding those positive improvements, the process becomes motivation. This could be argued to be true since behaviours that are rewarded (motivated) are likely to continue and those that are discouraged are likely are likely to cease with time. This is known as positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement respectively (Stahre, M., 2014).

The difference between those who succeed to recovery and those that do not can be contributed to motivation. Motivation is therefore a very important factor to consider for change to occur and for an individual to fully recover from addiction.

It’s true to conclude that the process of change is not easy. As the process begins, motivation for change comes to play. The most widely used model for change, and which is also employed in this work is the stages of change model.

Roerecke, and Rehm (2014: 54). ‘The first stage is known as Pre-Contemplation’. At this stage, the addicted person may be aware of the cost of addiction. They however view the benefits as being more than the disadvantages. The addict shows little interest in change if any. They exhibit no plan to change. Of course other people view this differently.

The second stage is contemplation. People at this stage have become aware of the problems associated with their behaviour. They are however still contemplating on whether change is necessary or not. The person explores the option of changing but is still not confident enough. The stage is also characterized by the desire to change at some unspecified time in future. Between this stage and the third stage, the addicted person comes to a conclusion that the disadvantages of their behaviour are more than the advantages. Based on this they decide to change. Deciding to change is an event and not a process (Sookoian, et al 2014).

The third stage is referred to as preparation. At this point, the individual has realised that it’s worthwhile to change their behaviour and they accept that it’s their responsibility. They evaluate and select the techniques to be employed to achieve change. The person is motivated to change and expects to achieve change as soon as possible. He/she also makes a plan to guide them through the change process.

Fourth is action stage. The individual is self driven to change and takes several initiatives to achieve the change. The person harbours motivation and shows a great deal of interest in achieving the change. Even though the person takes a self initiative, change from outside may be sought. This may include a therapist or a rehab. The person at this stage might be described as showing a great deal of enthusiasm and a great motivation to change (Song, et al 2017).

The fifth stage is known as maintenance. People at this stage have learnt and are able to maintain new behaviour with minimal efforts.  They have adopted a new set of behaviour and portray self control. They can comfortably contain temptation, relapse is minimal and the behaviour change has been sustained for a period of six months. The change is slowly but surely being integrated into their lifestyle. It can almost be said that it’s integrated into their daily routine and activities.

Achieving Behaviour Change: The Stages of Change Model

According to Parsons and Prigatano (2014) the sixth and the final stage are known as termination. The self image of the individual has greatly improved. This is because the individual has successfully integrated the desired change into their behaviour and lifestyle. Temptation is no longer a big deal and even if presented with alcohol they can comfortably have no single temptation. At this stage, the individual enjoys a happier and healthy lifestyle and relapse becomes almost unthinkable.

The Pros

  • Regaining self control. Addiction leads to loss of self-control and makes an individual’s body and mind to become dependent on alcohol. As a result, behaviour change helps one regain their self-control and become more rational, happier and make more informed decisions.
  • Prevention of disease conditions such as liver cirrhosis and brain damage. Heavy alcohol use leads to destruction of various body organs which increases the risk of mortality. Changing that behaviour, therefore, can be said to contribute to longevity. It also leads to prevention of liver cancer which is likely to be brought about by excessive consumption of alcohol for an extended period of time.
  • Prevention of nerve damage. Abusing alcohol for an extended period of time leads to a slow and gradual degeneration of nerve cell and ultimately leading to their death. Cessation of alcohol consumption, leads to a termination of this process. This consequently helps the individual enjoy a healthier life and health nerves.
  • It also reduces the risk of developing obesity and therefore related conditions such as hypertension. Alcohol contributes highly to kilocalories and the excess kilocalories are converted to fats and energy. When fat contents are extremely higher than the body needs, overweight and obesity might result. The excess fat is associated with many health conditions such as hypertension and heart disease. Ceasing to consume alcohol therefore offers a great deal of health advantages.
  • Cessation of alcohol consumption also reduces the chances of engaging in risky behaviours such as unprotected sex and causing car accidents. It also leads to more productivity since time formerly used in alcohol consumption will be used for constructive activities.

With these advantages of changing alcohol behaviour, it’s only true to conclude that the change is worth achieving. With the model discussed above this change can be achieved gradually and the individual who makes such a change enjoys an uncountable number of advantages for such an undertaking.

There are various reasons why people consume alcohol and to some extent the alcohol meet the expectation of the consumer. Changing the alcohol addiction behaviour means that the advantages accrued from alcohol consumption will no longer be obtained. These advantages that will no longer be experienced include the following:

  • Relieving of mental stress. Consuming alcohol relieves a stressed person by creating a state of euphoria in the individual’s brain. This helps the person relax during the stressful situation. Ceasing to consume alcohol will mean that they can no longer achieve this benefit.
  • Alcohol act as sedative agent and helps the users have comfortable sleep. In a person who does not normally have a good sleep, this could be of help. Elimination of this drug (alcohol) from the lifestyle of the individual simply means elimination of this benefit that is accrued from its consumption.
  • Experts also argue that moderate consumption of alcohol could confer the user some health benefits which include: reduction of risk of heart disease, possible reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke (narrowing down of the blood vessels (arteries) that supply the brain with blood.), and a possible reduction in the risk for diabetes. Elimination of alcohol consumption thus simply means that the individual will not enjoy these benefits.
  • Alcohol consumption has also been said to improve appetite. This could be of help to a person with poor appetite. This could also be of great benefit to those who need to gain weight. These advantages are not available in persons who have quit consumption of alcohol.

Jupp and Dalley (2014) alcohol use implicates almost every facet of the addicted person’s life. Drinking is viewed as a way to socialise, to come together as friends, enjoying achievements and generally a way of enjoying life. It’s seen by many as a way of telling off a long day’s work and a way of welcoming and spending the weekend before resuming work on Monday.

As seen earlier, alcohol consumption has various negative effects which include:

  • Physical illnesses such as dehydration, hangover and vomiting.
  • Psychological impacts which include regret, memory loss and anxiety.
  • Increased likelihood of engaging in dangerous activities such as unsafe sex, accidents and violence.
  • Financial constraints are not left out of the question. Alcohol consumption drains the addicted individual’s cash.
  • There are also relationship constrains. It becomes quite difficult for a person who is addicted to relate well with the family members and those around him.

As far as the illnesses are concerned, the liver tends to carry the lion’s share of the implications. The liver is the organ in the human body that detoxifies alcohol. Alcohol is foreign to the body. Once consumed, the body treats the alcohol as a toxin and the body gives its detoxification process a priority. The organ involved in detoxification is primarily the liver. Nearly all the alcohol consumed thus passes through the live as a result conditions such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatic failures can also result and therefore death. These are negative health impacts of alcohol.

On the other hand, alcohol use is also known to offer some health benefits. These benefits especially regard to heart health. It’s known to reduce the risk of several cardiovascular diseases. It thus improves heart health. These benefits are only accrued from moderate consumption of alcohol.

There are also various psychological impacts which include regrets. Regrets come from deeds done in the wrong way which in most cases is as a result of impaired judgement thus impaired decisions. There’s also memory loss. A person who is addicted to alcohol has a hard time recalling what they did or said. This could be very harmful in some situations. Another psychological impact is anxiety.

Nestler,  (2014) explains that there’s also increased likelihood to engage in risky behaviours such as unprotected sex which could mean an STI or disease condition such as HIV/AIDS. They can also engage in risky behaviours such as violence. This could include domestic violence and such implications as detention could result.

Conclusion

Another great implication of alcohol use is financial constraints. As alcohol use progresses, more is consumed to achieve the same effect. This is likely to drain an individual’s funds and will increase the vulnerability of a person to debts. An individual may also become a great liability to the family and to the society in general. This could mean that a person might be unable to meet both their needs and the needs of the family. It could also mean a low self esteem which is a psychological implication.

Relationship impacts are also one of the implications of alcohol. Alcohol use deteriorates the relationship of the alcohol user and family members, workmates, friends and generally those around him/her.

In pregnancy, alcoholism could lead delivery of an abnormal baby.

Changing alcohol behaviour and ceasing to consume alcohol will mean an improvement in all these areas. It’s therefore wise to make a decision to quit drinking. For those who have not started drinking its wise not to start drinking. As seen in the above discussion, deciding to change alcohol addiction behaviour comes with numerous advantages.


In conclusion, it’s true to conclude that alcohol addiction is a behaviour that can successfully be changed. People consume alcohol for various reasons. Through employment of a motivation based model such as the stages of change model, an individual can successfully progress from addiction to complete independence. As seen in this discussion there are various pros and cons of consuming alcohol. The pros are fewer than the cons and it’s therefore wiser to do without alcohol if possible. Any possible benefit of moderate alcohol consumption is not worth it when compared by the many disadvantages associated with its consumption. There are also several advantages and disadvantages of changing alcohol addiction behaviour. As discussed in this text, the pros are more than the cons which makes changing the behaviour an important decision.

As discussed, there also several impacts on the health and lifestyle of the addicted individual. It has been shown that alcohol affects almost every facet of life. Such effects are mainly negative in nature and very few if any advantages.

Weekly Progress

The weekly progress shall be monitored by recording the indicators for motivation for change once every week. The records will help identify the level of success and adjustments to be made to help achieve desired change.

Reflection of the change journey

The change journey is gradual and often relapses occur. If change is consistency is maintained and a good monitoring and evaluation done, change will eventually be achieved. It’s good to reflect on the change journey and reward the positive behaviours. Any behaviour that achieves a step towards change should be reinforced and this will assist achieve maximum change.

Daily Progress

The individual develops through the stages outlined above. Each day there is a little improvement in the endeavour to eliminate the addiction. At the end of each day, the progress is checked and the client improves daily.

Week 1

The addict shows little interest in change if any. They exhibit no plan to change. Of course, other people view this differently.

Week 2

Week 3

At this stage (contemplation), theb addict has become aware of the problems associated with their behaviour. They are however still contemplating on whether change is necessary or no

Week 4

Week 5

The individual has realised that it’s worthwhile to change their behaviour and they accept that it’s their responsibility. They evaluate and select the techniques to be employed to achieve change. The person is motivated to change and expects to achieve change as soon as possible. He/she also makes a plan to guide them through the change process

Week 6

Wek 7

. The individual is self driven to change and takes several initiatives to achieve the change. The person harbours motivation and shows a great deal of interest in achieving the change. Even though the person takes a self initiative, change from outside may be sought. This may include a therapist or a rehab. The person at this stage might be described as showing a great deal of enthusiasm and a great motivation to change

Week 8


References

Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Botteri, E., Tramacere, I., Islami, F., Fedirko, V., Scotti, L., Jenab, M., Turati, F., Pasquali, E. and Pelucchi, C., 2015. Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose–response meta-analysis. British journal of cancer, 112(3), pp.580-593.

Barrett-Connor, E., de Gaetano, G., Djoussé, L., Ellison, R.C., Estruch, R., Finkel, H., Goldfinger, T., Keil, U., Lanzmann-Petithory, D., Mattivi, F. and Skovenborg, E., 2016. Comments on Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Mortality. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 77(5), pp.834-836.

Cooke, R., Dahdah, M., Norman, P. and French, D.P., 2016. How well does the theory of planned behaviour predict alcohol consumption? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Health psychology review, 10(2), pp.148-167.

Everitt, B.J. and Robbins, T.W., 2016. Drug addiction: updating actions to habits to compulsions ten years on. Annual review of psychology, 67, pp.23-50.

Jayne, M. and Valentine, G., 2016. Alcohol Consumption and Geographies of Childhood and Family Life. Play and Recreation, Health and Wellbeing, p.545.

Jupp, B. and Dalley, J.W., 2014. Behavioral endophenotypes of drug addiction: etiological insights from neuroimaging studies. Neuropharmacology, 76, pp.487-497.

Koob, George F. "Negative reinforcement in drug addiction: the darkness within." Current opinion in neurobiology 23, no. 4 (2013): 559-563.

Mental, H.S.A.U. and Office of the Surgeon General (US, 2016. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.

Mostofsky, E., Mukamal, K.J., Giovannucci, E.L., Stampfer, M.J. and Rimm, E.B., 2016. Key Findings on Alcohol Consumption and a Variety of Health Outcomes From the Nurses’ Health Study. American journal of public health, 106(9), pp.1586-1591.

Nestler, E.J., 2014. Epigenetic mechanisms of drug addiction. Neuropharmacology, 76, pp.259-268.

Parsons, O.A. and Prigatano, G.P., 2014. Memory functioning in alcoholics. Birnbaum IM, Parker ES, pp.185-194.

Roerecke, M. and Rehm, J., 2014. Alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, and ischemic heart disease: a narrative review of meta-analyses and a systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of heavy drinking occasions on risk for moderate drinkers. BMC medicine, 12(1), p.182.

Song, R.J., Nguyen, X.M.T., Quaden, R.M., Ho, Y.L., Justice, A.C., Cho, K., O’Donnell, C.J., Concato, J. and Gaziano, J.M., 2017. Abstract P222: Moderate Alcohol Consumption is Associated With a Lower Risk of Coronary Artery Disease: The Million Veteran Program.

Sookoian, S., Castaño, G.O. and Pirola, C.J., 2014. Modest alcohol consumption decreases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a meta-analysis of 43 175 individuals. Gut, 63(3), pp.530-532.

Stahre, M., 2014. Contribution of excessive alcohol consumption to deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. Preventing chronic disease, 11.

Stockwell, T., Zhao, J., Panwar, S., Roemer, A., Naimi, T. and Chikritzhs, T., 2016. Do “moderate” drinkers have reduced mortality risk? A systematic review and meta-analysis of alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 77(2), pp.185-198.

Wannamethee, S.G., Whincup, P.H., Lennon, L., Papacosta, O. and Shaper, A.G., 2015. Alcohol consumption and risk of incident heart failure in older men: a prospective cohort study. Open heart, 2(1), p.e000266.

Wise, R.A. and Koob, G.F., 2014. The development and maintenance of drug addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(2), pp.254-262.

World Health Organization, 2014. Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. World Health Organization.

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