Sober living

Physical Alcohol Dependence: Risks And Warning Signs

ACTH is carried via the blood stream to the adrenal glands (which are located atop the kidneys), where it induces the release of stress hormones (i.e., glucocorticoids) that then act on target cells and tissues throughout the body (including the brain). The main glucocorticoid in humans and other primates is cortisol; the main glucocorticoid in rodents is corticosterone. In addition, researchers who have tried to elucidate the relationship between alcohol consumption and aggression have suggested that people with a psychiatric condition called antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) may be particularly susceptible to alcohol-related aggression.

It all comes down to how often you drink, how much you drink, and how your body responds when you don’t drink. Pharmacologic strategies to reduce drinking in patients with AUD may attempt to correct the imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory pathways, and relieve the intense craving for alcohol brought about by neuroadaptation. Alternatively, compounds that target reward pathways may compensate for the plasticity in dopamine signaling that enhances the drinking experience of patients with AUD. The acute and chronic effects of alcohol on brain physiology have been well studied and help to rationalize the investigation of psychotropic drugs in the treatment of AUD.

Alcohol's Effects on the Body

However, research suggests that adolescents may be more sensitive to some of alcohol’s harmful effects on brain function. Studies in rats found that alcohol impairs the ability of adolescent animals more than adult animals to learn a task that requires spatial memory. Research also suggests a mechanism for this effect; in adolescents more than adults, alcohol inhibits the process in which, with repeated experience, nerve impulses travel more easily across the gap between nerve cells (i.e., neurons) involved in the task being learned. Although approved pharmacologic treatment options for patients with AUD are limited in number, recent trials describe a host of alternative approaches to reducing alcohol consumption.

physiological (physical) dependence on alcohol

There is a wide range of other environmental factors that predispose to the development of alcohol-use disorders (Cook, 1994). These include the affordability and availability of alcohol, high consumption rates in the general population, occupational risk factors (such as working in the alcohol or hospitality industries), social pressure to drink, and religious- and culturally-related attitudes towards alcohol. The health consequences of alcohol, including deaths from alcoholic liver disease, have been increasing in the UK compared with a reduction in many other European countries (Leon & McCambridge, 2006).

Physical Dependence On Alcohol

Harmful drinking in men varied from 5% in the East Midlands to 11% in Yorkshire and Humber, and in women from 2% in the East of England to 7% in Yorkshire and Humber. Binge drinking among men varied from 19% in the West Midlands to 29% in Yorkshire and Humber and among women from 11% in East of England to 21% in Yorkshire and Humber (Robinson & Bulger, 2010). In male rats, both acute and chronic alcohol exposure during adolescence results in a reversible suppression of serum testosterone (Little et al. 1992; Cicero et al. 1990; Tentler et al. 1997; Emanuele et al. 1998, 1999a, b; Steiner et al. 1997). Evidence exists for involvement at the hypothalamic, pituitary, and gonadal levels, although the testes appear to be the prime target of alcohol’s actions (Emanuele et al. 1999a). Furthermore, GH levels are affected by acute and chronic alcohol exposure in male adolescent rats, whereas IGF-1, growth hormone releasing factor (GRF), and GRF mRNA content are variable, depending on the type of administration (Steiner et al. 1997; Tentler et al. 1997).

physiological (physical) dependence on alcohol

Samples were taken before, during, and after the 2-hour drinking session, when the mice had the opportunity to voluntarily drink alcohol (15 percent vol/vol) or water. Alcohol intake during the drinking session was 3.04 ± 0.15 g/kg for dependent mice and 2.32 ± 0.28 g/kg for nondependent physiological dependence on alcohol mice. Horizontal lines and shaded area represent brain alcohol levels (means ± SEM) measured in the dependent mice during chronic intermittent alcohol exposure (28.4 ± 3.5 mM). Early Stage – Though deemed the “early” stage, this stage is where a regular drinking pattern develops.


Addiction treatment trials often use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Text Revision), 4th edition (DSM-IV-TR) definition of alcohol use disorders ([AUD] abuse or dependence) to define study participants. The DSM-IV definition of alcohol dependence requires significantly harmful impact caused by at least three out of seven target conditions within a single year. In terms of services provided by community specialist agencies, the majority (63%) provide structured psychological interventions either on an individual basis or as part of a structured community programme (Drummond et al., 2005). There is considerable variation in the availability and access to specialist alcohol services both in community settings and in inpatient settings where provision of specialist psychiatric liaison services with responsibility for alcohol misuse is also very variable. Only 30% provide some form of assisted alcohol-withdrawal programme, and less than 20% provide medications for relapse prevention. Of the residential programmes, 45% provide inpatient medically-assisted alcohol withdrawal and 60% provide residential rehabilitation with some overlap between the two treatment modalities.

  • Estimates of the economic costs attempt to assess in monetary terms the damage that results from the misuse of alcohol.
  • In 2010, AA membership worldwide was reported as nearly 2 million (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2010).
  • Many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don't recognize that they have a problem.
  • No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Most human and animal research on alcohol and endocrine development has been conducted in females, but the limited data on both genders suggest that alcohol can have substantial effects on neuroendocrine function (see Dees et al. 2001; Emanuele et al. 1998; Emanuele et al. 2002a,b). Human studies have found that alcohol ingestion can lower estrogen levels in adolescent girls (Block et al. 1993) and lower both LH and testosterone levels in midpubertal boys (Diamond et al. 1986; Frias et al. 2000a). In both genders, acute alcohol intoxication produces a decrease in GH levels without significant change in either IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP3) (Frias et al. 2000b). This is due to the high risks the withdrawal effects may have on the body, which may even be fatal. At-Risk Stage – Known as the pre-alcoholic stage, this is when you choose to drink socially or at home. You may use alcohol to feel better after a long day, to relieve stress, or to cope with certain emotions and stressors; you may also be drinking more than intended.