Alcohol use disorder (AUD) or commonly known as alcoholism refers to a more problematic drinking of alcohol leading to serious health problems. Unfortunately, people often use alcohol to celebrate important milestones in their lives and in social gatherings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, consider moderate drinking as two drinks for men in a day and one drink per day for women. Alcohol use varies greatly from culture to the other and deciphering when addiction starts is a very difficult process.



A very thin line


Alcoholism greatly interferes with personal relationships, performance at school or work. A person can immediately go from social drinker to heavy drinker in an instant. From then on, with just a fraction of time develops alcohol abuse. AUD creates serious problems with loved ones and decreases everyday enthusiasm from activities they previously enjoyed.



The harsh truth


The medical community categorizes Alcohol use disorder as a severe medical condition of problematic drinking behavior. In 2015, the astounding 15.1 million adults ages 18 years old and older suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). It’s a brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive alcohol use, losing total control over alcohol intake and having severe withdrawal symptoms whenever the sufferer stops drinking.

In this modern world, scientists do know some of the factors that can trigger Alcohol Use Disorder such as age, genetics, and environment. However, the exact cause of the disorder remains an elusive topic. But new research study may shed a light on the exact brain chemistry that causes AUD in some people.


“Is a faulty signaling mechanism in the brain area that processes emotion the reason that only a minority of those who drink alcohol become addicted to it?


Researchers in Sweden and the United States suggest that this might be the case after studying alcohol addiction in rats. They found that the rats that became addicted had an impaired brain mechanism similar to that seen in postmortem brain tissue from humans who were addicted to alcohol.


The faulty mechanism is a failure to clear away a substance known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) that inhibits signaling around neurons, or brain cells, in the central amygdala. The amygdala is a region of the brain concerned with emotion, learning, memory, and motivation. The scientists report their findings in a paper now published in the journal Science.


Disrupted ‘motivational control’


The authors explain that, of people who are exposed to alcohol, around 10–15 percent “develop alcohol-related problems.” In their study, they found that a similar proportion (15 percent) of the rats that were exposed to alcohol persisted with alcohol-seeking and became addicted. The rats continued to dose themselves with alcohol even when a “high-value” option, such as sugared water, was made available to them. Most of the rats switched over to sugared water when given the option, but the persistent minority continued to dose themselves with alcohol. This was in spite of the fact that pressing the lever to get the substance also delivered a slight electric shock to the paw.


The team observed that the alcohol-seeking animals behaved in a similar way to humans who are addicted to alcohol. The rodents were highly motivated to get alcohol, even though there were negative consequences and another reward option.


“We have to understand,” explains senior study author Markus Heilig, who is a professor in clinical and experimental medicine at Linköping University in Sweden, “that a core feature of addiction is that you know it is going to harm you, potentially even kill you, and nevertheless something has gone wrong with the motivational control and you keep doing it.”


To learn more of alcohol addiction causes read here.


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