Alcoholism is a complex form of addiction because it is influenced not only by the substance but also by genetics, molecular reactions, and environmental factors (Genetics, n.d.; Hillenmacher, 2011; Horvath, et al., n.d.; Mccrady et al., 2006). Each individual case of alcoholism is unique to the addict but the beginnings of an addiction appear to follow a similar pattern. Research has shown that individuals begin to continually reach for alcohol because of the pleasurable feeling it elicits that causes various chemical reactions in the brain (Hillemacher, 2011; Nagy, 2008; Weed, n.d.). Whether an individual has a genetic affinity or just a social affinity is what differentiates an addict and the level of addiction (Hillemacher, 2011; Horavath et al., n.d.; Weed, n.d.). It is proposed that an individual’s level of alcohol addiction can be measured based on the level of genetic influence and environmental factors. When an individual drinks alcohol various chemicals are released in the brain that creates pleasurable feelings (Nagy, 2008; Weed, n.d.). One of the main chemical contributors to the enjoyment of alcohol is a strong release of dopamine (Nagy, 2008; Weed, n.d.). This feeling is what initiates a beginning addict to continue to use alcohol. After the initial enjoyment an addict depending upon the factors will begin to feel that they need to use alcohol to handle emotional events (Mccrady, 2006; Weed, n.d.). Factors that contribute include genetic risk factors, sometimes termed the “alcoholism gene”, and environmental risks (Genetics, n.d.; Mccrady, 2006). These environmental risks are familial structures that encourage drinking as well as friend-groups that encourage drinking (Mccrady, 2006).
Many addicts have both genetic risk factors as well as environmental risk factors in the form of family (Genetics, n.d.; Mccrady, 2006). This can make differentiating genetic influences from environmental influences difficult. A solution to the differentiating difficulties is to quantifying the level of an individual’s addiction based upon the risk factors that they exhibit. Quantifying the level of addiction based upon the level of impact various factors have had on the addict will facilitate the science of addiction. Overall, there is much to be learned about the science of alcohol addiction but the first thing to learn is how strong reach risk factor is in contributing to addiction.
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