Mental Health and Alcohol Abuse: Pychological Effects of Drinking

The main glucocorticoid in humans and other primates is cortisol; the main glucocorticoid in rodents is corticosterone. In addition to physical signs of withdrawal, a constellation of symptoms contributing to a state of distress and psychological discomfort constitute a significant component of the withdrawal syndrome (Anton and Becker 1995; Roelofs 1985; Schuckit et al. 1998). These symptoms include emotional changes such as irritability, agitation, anxiety, and dysphoria, as well as sleep disturbances, a sense of inability to experience pleasure (i.e., anhedonia), and frequent complaints about “achiness,” which possibly may reflect a reduced threshold for pain sensitivity. Many of these signs and symptoms, including those that reflect a negative-affect state (e.g., anxiety, distress, and anhedonia) also have been demonstrated in animal studies involving various models of dependence (Becker 2000).

psychological and physiological dependence on alcohol

With sensory (i.e., vision or light touch) or stance (feet apart) aids, the sway paths are short, even in alcoholics. In alcoholics, longer sway path length correlated with smaller volumes of the anterior vermis of the cerebellum, circled in turquoise on magnetic resonance images (correlation plot). Homeless people who misuse alcohol have particular difficulties in engaging mainstream alcohol services, often due to difficulties in attending planned appointments. Al-anon uses the same 12 steps as AA with some modifications and is focused on meeting the needs of friends and family members of alcoholics. Again, meetings are widely available and provide helpful support beyond what can be provided by specialist treatment services.

Continuing Education Activity

Stupor is another psychological effect that can cause the person to have impaired movement and cause them to go in and out of consciousness. If you think you may be dependent on alcohol, you should consult your doctor or another medical professional before stopping drinking. You could speak to a health professional at your GP surgery, or there are also a number of national alcohol support services that you can confidentially self-refer to for advice and support. All in all, the only way to look at Addiction is as both a psychological addiction AND a physical addiction that are inextricably liked through our psyche’s presence in the brain, a physical part of the body. It may seem like a small thing, but this distinction makes many users feel as if their problem is less, or more, severe than that of other addicts. As far as I’m concerned, if you have a behavior that is making your life miserable and which you can’t seem to stop, it doesn’t matter if you’re throwing up during withdrawal or not.

Lingering and accruing untoward consequences of alcohol use disorders (also referred to as chronic alcoholism and alcohol dependence and abuse) on cognitive and motor functions, recognized for centuries, commonly have been attributed to generalized toxic effects of alcohol on the brain. Advancement of this knowledge has been underwritten by 40 years of intramural and extramural funding by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Achievement of a mechanistic understanding of this complex behavioral and medical condition has required numerous innovations on many levels of neuroscience investigation. This brief history recounts the state of knowledge in the early days of alcoholism research and highlights progress achieved in the application and development of neuroscience methods directed toward an empirical and mechanistic understanding of the effects of the “alcohol dependence syndrome” on human brain and behavior.

Symptoms (signs of abuse or dependency):

Imagine someone battling both alcoholism and depression – the coexistence of these challenges can lead to a spiral of intensified depressive symptoms, making recovery an even more intricate journey. If you or the people around you may notice that you compulsively use alcohol, have been drinking more excessively to feel the effects of alcohol, or exhibit these signs of withdrawal when not drinking, it’s important to take note and seek treatment before symptoms worsen. Most individuals who are alcohol dependent are physically, psychologically and emotionally reliant on alcohol, and they usually continue to drink despite the adverse consequences.

  • More recently, however, researchers have been turning their attention to the evaluation of changes in withdrawal symptoms that extend beyond physical signs of withdrawal—that is, to those symptoms that fall within the domain of psychological distress and dysphoria.
  • Some people seem to have more of a physical dependence, where you experience the symptoms of your addiction in your body.
  • All in all, the only way to look at Addiction is as both a psychological addiction AND a physical addiction that are inextricably liked through our psyche’s presence in the brain, a physical part of the body.

In fact, evidence continues to accumulate that alcohol consumption can result in brain acetaldehyde levels that may be pharmacologically important (Deng and Deitrich 2008). However, the role of acetaldehyde as a precursor of alkaloid condensation products is less compelling. Although increased tolerance to alcohol’s sedative effects may enable greater intake in adolescents, repeated exposure to alcohol may produce increased sensitivity to alcohol’s harmful effects.

Alcohol Dependence

In terms of productivity, alcohol contributes to absenteeism, accidents in the workplace and decline in work performance. Up to 17 million working days are lost annually in the UK due to alcohol-related absences and 58,000 working years are lost annually due to premature deaths related to alcohol (Leontaridi, 2003). Alcohol misuse can also lead physiological dependence on alcohol to job loss and over 38,000 people of working age in England were claiming Incapacity Benefit with a diagnosis of ‘alcoholism’ – nearly 2% of all claimants (Deacon et al., 2007). The term ‘hazardous use’ appeared in the draft version of ICD–10 to indicate a pattern of substance use that increases the risk of harmful consequences for the user.

Therefore, it is clear that there is substantial remission from alcohol-use disorders over time. Much of this remission takes place without contact with alcohol treatment services (Dawson et al., 2005a). Cognitive effects of alcohol use may include memory loss, problems with learning, dementia, and severely hindered mental functioning in most severe cases.10 Seeking alcohol addiction treatment is the first step in preventing or reducing the negative effects of alcohol on the brain. Relapse represents a major challenge to treatment efforts for people suffering from alcohol dependence. To date, no therapeutic interventions can fully prevent relapse, sustain abstinence, or temper the amount of drinking when a “slip” occurs.


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