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Understanding Alcoholism – What you need to know

Written by Abby Doty

& Medically Reviewed by Danielle Boland

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 602-7202 now.

Alcohol is a mind-altering, habit-forming substance that can be as addictive and deadly as other dangerous substances, such as heroin. Unfortunately, its use is prevalent in cultures worldwide. Alcohol is accessible to people all over the world, and it is difficult to avoid. Addiction doesn’t impact everyone that uses alcohol, but it is easy to develop the disease.

Millions of Americans currently suffer from alcohol addiction. If you are suffering, you may feel alone, but this isn’t the case. Luckily, recovery from alcohol addiction is not only possible, it is likely if you seek care at a licensed, evidence-based treatment facility.

What Qualifies as Alcohol Abuse?

When are you abusing alcohol? Alcohol abuse occurs when you are drinking:

  • To get drunk
  • More than you should
  • To feel physically or mentally normal
  • While using other substances
  • For emotional reasons

There is a difference between alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse. However, the two are often linked. If you frequently abuse alcohol and have an uncontrollable compulsion to drink, you may be struggling with alcohol addiction.

Insurance May Cover the Cost of Rehab

Cost should not stop you from getting the help you need. See if your insurance is accepted at The Recovery Village.

What Makes Alcohol So Addictive?

When alcohol enters a person’s system, it alters their brain reward centers to release “feel good” chemicals like dopamine. This release of chemicals causes your brain to give you a chemical “reward” whenever you drink alcohol. If you drink excessively or consistently, your brain can even physically rewire itself to crave the alcohol-induced rush of serotonin. After your brain has become accustomed to the alcohol, it will respond to the substance less and less. Therefore, as you continue to drink, you will gain a tolerance and need to drink more to feel the same effects.

Alcohol Abuse Risks

When you abuse alcohol, you can attract negative outcomes physically, mentally and socially. While many people claim to be social drinkers or make light of alcohol abuse by using casual names for it like booze or sauce, the fact is that alcohol can do serious damage to your life.

Physical Risks

Permanent damage can be caused to the body by alcohol abuse. Some examples are:

  • Organ damage, especially the liver and heart
  • Nerve damage
  • Certain cancers, like mouth and throat cancer
  • Alcohol poisoning or overdose, which can be fatal

Mental Risks

It isn’t just your physical health that is affected by drinking too much. Your mental health can suffer as well. Alcohol affects the same parts of the brain that are responsible for mood disorders. Of all of the people who suffer from anxiety or mood disorders like depression, 20% also suffer from a substance use disorder, the clinical term for an alcohol or drug addiction. Substance abuse and mental health issues often go together and must be treated together in dual diagnosis treatment for an effective recovery.

Social Risks

People struggling with alcohol addiction may also struggle to perform their school, work or family responsibilities. As alcohol becomes the only thing they think about, they may lie or deceive others to get more alcohol or hide their alcohol use. In a study of alcohol users by The Recovery Village:

  • 42% reported their alcohol use impacted their relationships
  • 25% reported their alcohol use impacted their career or job
  • 34% reported their alcohol use impacted their finances
  • 13% had a legal issue because of alcohol, like getting arrested or fined

Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

If you are suffering from an addiction to alcohol, it has never been a better time for you to seek the treatment you deserve. Just like cancer or diabetes, addiction is a disease that needs to be treated. There is no shame in asking for help.

Recovery is always possible, no matter where you are in your journey. We understand what you are going through. Many of us here at The Recovery Village Ridgefield are actually in recovery ourselves.

We offer many levels of treatment, including outpatient care, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization and inpatient drug rehab in Washington state. We are conveniently located in the Pacific Northwest, close to the cities of Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and Tacoma, Washington. Our team of addiction specialists is dedicated to helping you find the healing you deserve.

Don’t let alcohol continue to drive your existence. You can take back control of your life. Reach out to us today at The Recovery Village Ridgefield, and allow us to show you the way to your long-term recovery.


    • Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Substance Use.” Accessed November 25, 2021.

    • Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abuse.” December 5, 2014. Accessed November 25, 2021.

View Sources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Substance Use.” Accessed November 25, 2021.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abuse.” December 5, 2014. Accessed November 25, 2021.

McHugh, R.K., Weiss, R.D. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” Alcohol Research, January 1, 2019. Accessed November 25, 2021.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed November 25, 2021.