Brain cells causing alcoholism discovered

By: Emily Lunardo | Brain Function | Tuesday, September 08, 2015 - 05:00 PM

Brain cells causing alcoholism discoveredAlcoholism is recognized as a disease, and researchers have now discovered the brain cells which cause alcoholism and contribute to excessive alcohol consumption.

The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience from researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Researchers found that alcohol causes alterations to the neuronal morphology in the dorsomedial striatum – the part of the brain responsible for goal-directed behaviors. Researchers suggest that by blocking this activity they can help those with alcoholism reduce their intake. Alcohol stimulates neurons – D1 or D2 – which make them more excitable with less stimulation. This in turn makes the individual want to consume more alcohol and crave it.

The changes to D1 can be related to physical changes at a sub-cellular level. Researchers believe by suppressing activity to the neurons they can suppress the need for excessive alcohol consumption. Researchers wish to continue to understand how addiction works in order to stop or prevent it.

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism

Signs and symptoms of alcoholismMaybe you enjoy a glass of alcohol with a meal, or every night, but does this mean you suffer from alcoholism? It is then important to understand the signs and symptoms of alcoholism in order to receive help to combat the illness. Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Inability to limit alcohol consumption
  • Being unsuccessful in limiting alcohol consumption
  • Spending ample time drinking, getting alcohol
  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Inability to perform daily duties due to alcohol use and recovery – work/school
  • Relationships become affected
  • Consuming alcohol in risky settings – swimming, driving
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you drink more
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has defined drinking levels based on low to high risk of alcoholism, they are:

Binge drinking: Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 g/dl. Defined as four drinks in women and five drinks in men within two hours.

Heavy drinking: Five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days within 30 days.

Low risk for developing alcohol use disorder: Women consume no more than three drinks on a single day and no more than seven a week. Men consume no more than four drinks on a single day and no more than 14 a week. Problems can still arise if alcohol is consumed quickly or there are other medical conditions present.

Effects of excess alcohol consumption on your body

Excessive alcohol consumption can have temporary and long-term effects on the body, impairing both safety and health. Effects of excess alcohol consumption on the body include:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents or drowning
  • Relationship problems
  • Poor work or school performance
  • Increased likelihood of committing crime
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Other substance problems
  • Engaging in risky behavior – unprotected sex
  • Increased risk or attempts of suicide
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes complications
  • Sexual function and menstruation issues
  • Eye problems
  • Birth defects
  • Bone damage
  • Neurological complications
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Medication and alcohol interactions

Preventing excess alcohol consumption

prevent excessive alcohol consumptionOf course, the easiest way to prevent excess alcohol consumption is to stop or avoid drinking but this can be quite difficult. Here is how you can better prevent excess alcohol consumption.

  • Choose to not drink too much alcohol and support others.
  • Avoid environments which promote heavy or binge drinking.
  • Do not serve those who are underage or continue to serve alcohol to those who have drank too much.
  • Speak with a doctor or councilor about your drinking habits.
  • Recognize reasons why you consume alcohol and seek help for them.
  • Set a limit – women no more than one drink a day, men no more than two drinks a day.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you have access to within your home.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Take a break from alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Recognize and eliminate temptations.

Natural ways to treat alcoholism

To treat alcoholism, it is important to make necessary lifestyle changes which will promote healthier living and the reduction of alcohol consumption. Natural ways to treat alcoholism include:

  • Consider social situations: Let friends and family know that you are not drinking, and ask for support in that choice. If those close to you continue to consume alcohol the temptation for you will still be there and thus hinder your recovery.
  • Develop healthy habits: Sleeping well, exercising and eating a balanced diet can help with your recovery because you will begin to feel better and not so dependant on alcohol.
  • Partake in activities that don’t include alcohol: If you’re used to activities centered on alcohol, pick up new activities which don’t involve it. Take up hiking or painting rather than sitting around a table with friends merely to drink.
  • Reduce stress: Stress can be a large trigger for consuming alcohol. Reducing stress can be a natural way to treat alcoholism because if you are not stressed you will not feel tempted to reach for alcohol. Stress-reduction can be done through yoga, meditation or even acupuncture.

Alcoholism is a serious illness which can jeopardize a person’s relationships as well as their own life. Seeking appropriate treatment can help an individual overcome their addiction and dependency to alcohol and ensure they continue to live a healthy life.

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