Alcohol is often not considered a drug, this is largely due to its wide use is social and religious situations. However, alcohol consumption in excess can become addictive. Alcohol releases endorphins in the brain. These are ‘feel good’ chemicals that the brain releases in order to reward the body. Once the body becomes accustomed to the release of endorphins from alcohol, addiction sets in, and alcoholism occurs.
Absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestines and stomach, alcohol decreases activity in the brain and spinal cord. The effects of alcohol on the body depend greatly on one’s size, weight, sex, and metabolism. Women, generally being smaller, are affected by alcohol dramatically. Heart and liver disease, along with inflammation of the stomach, and cancer are just a few of the consequences of alcoholism.
There are many addictive drugs in circulation today. Addictive drugs differ from other drugs and medications in that they go directly to the brain. Substances enter the body and make their way to the brain through many routes. Once in the brain drugs act upon the brain’s ‘reward system’. This is the area of the brain that sends out ‘feel good’ chemicals known as endorphins.
The brain releases endorphins in moments of pleasure, for instance during a meal or during sex. When endorphins are released from drugs, it is sending a message to the brain that it needs drugs to survive. The mind becomes dependent on the ‘feel good’ sensation, and without that sensation the brain becomes depressed.
Addiction is so dangerous because once the brain is dependent on drugs; the other activities that would normally release endorphins diminish. Most drugs cause loss of appetite, sleep deprivation and lack of sex drive. These changes in the brain are what causes addiction, and these changes can often be fatal.
Drug addiction must be counteracted quickly. The longer one uses drugs the harder it is to stop. Drug and Alcohol programs are the answer to breaking drug addiction.