Menu Close

Rehab Blog

Providing Trusted, Evidence-Based
Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, we’re here to help.

Why Is Alcohol So Addictive?

a man holds a bottle of alcohol in one hand and a glass filled with the alcohol in the other while he asks why is alcohol addictive

Alcohol is known to be highly addictive because of the way it affects the brain and body. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it disrupts an important chemical in the brain called dopamine. This disruption causes a feeling of pleasure that can be very difficult for some people to resist. Alcohol also affects serotonin levels, which can lead to feelings of relaxation and happiness. As people continue to drink alcohol, their brain becomes accustomed to these effects and will start to crave them more frequently.

The good news is alcohol addiction is treatable. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, there are resources available to help. Seeking professional help from an alcohol rehab center can be the first step in recovery. Michael’s House and its alcohol rehab center offer a supportive environment and experienced professionals who can help you on your journey to sobriety. Call us today at 760.548.4032 to help answer your question about “Why is alcohol addictive?”

How Can Alcohol Addiction Occur?

Perhaps learning more about societal expectations and why alcohol is so addictive can help shed light on why professional resources are, in most cases, necessary for recovery. Quality treatment can guide those who are caught in social traps and the cycle of addiction to find their way back to their “authentic self” and out of harm’s way.

Social Influences

Most adult parties offer some alcoholic beverage options. Wedding receptions typically involve raising a glass of champagne to toast to the new couple’s future. Many people ring in the new year with alcohol. Even dinner parties and dining out oftentimes involve a glass or two, if not a bottle.

Over time, due to the relentless push to drink, people may become convinced that social occasions simply must include alcohol. As a result, the cues to drink can become overpowering. And, unfortunately, drinking to excess often follows.1 In addition to being the “perfect accompaniment” for many occasions, alcohol carries with it some specific attributes that serve other purposes at parties.

Research suggests that alcohol can numb the mind in such a way that people forget about their usual inhibitions and concerns. A report in “Addictive Behavior” refers to this phenomenon as “alcohol myopia.” 2 In this state, people are temporarily relieved of anxiety and depression. They may be more social and pleasant to converse with. Alcohol can also make you feel more important or confident. People who have underlying depression issues or social phobias may develop an alcohol addiction as a result of their attempt to self-medicate their undesirable conditions.3

Chemical Influences

Besides the behavioral changes that alcohol can bring about, alcohol can also cause changes at a chemical level within the body. These internal alterations can also be addictive. Research suggests that alcohol increases the production of endorphins. These are the brain’s natural painkillers. They are also associated with pleasure and reward. They tend to accumulate within the portions of the brain linked to addictive behaviors.

In essence, alcohol can make the brain tell lies. The brain says there’s an intense amount of pleasure going on when alcohol is consumed. In reality, however, there is no external cause for this response. At the same time, alcohol is turning off portions of the brain that handle other important functions, like impulse control and decision-making. Together, this chemical activity can lead to even more drinking.4

An interesting study published in “Science Translational Medicine” found that people who drink heavily have higher spikes in endorphins compared to people who are not heavy drinkers.5 This means that alcohol promotes more drinking (and other strange behavior) when consumption is high. The concept of “reinforcement” is important in addiction medicine. High levels of a drug can cause severe damage to various organs in the body. Compulsive use oftentimes ramps up and, with it, more physical harm.6

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction to Alcohol

Alcohol addiction is a severe and progressive condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction is an important step in getting help and starting on the path to recovery. Some common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Developing a high tolerance for alcohol, requiring more to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop drinking, such as sweating, trembling, nausea, and anxiety
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences, such as legal problems, relationship issues, or health concerns
  • Spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from its effects
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and consuming alcohol
  • Hiding alcohol or engaging in other secretive behaviors related to drinking. If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs and symptoms, seeking professional help can be critical in achieving sobriety and improving overall well-being.

Understanding these signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, as well as the possible causes of an addiction to alcohol, can help you begin the recovery journey.

Call Michael’s House to Get Help at Our Rehab Center

Even with all the research related to substance use disorders, finding your way out of alcohol addiction comes down to making hard choices. But the future can be bright for those who choose wisely. If you or a loved one is living with alcohol addiction, Michael’s House can help. Our alcohol rehab center provides evidence-based therapies and compassionate care to help those in need get back on track. Contact us today at 760.548.4032 to learn more about our services and how we can support your journey to recovery. Together, we’ll make sure you don’t have to ask, “Why is alcohol addictive?” again.


  1. Rethinking Drinking – Building Your Drink Refusal Skills
  2. APA PsychNet – Alcohol Myopia: Its Prized and Dangerous Effects
  3. National Library of Medicine – Alcohol, Violence, and the Alcohol Myopia Model: Preliminary Findings and Implications for Prevention
  4. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Alcohol’s Effects on Health
  5. HuffPost – Why Alcohol Is So Addictive
  6. ScienceDaily – Clue as to Why Alcohol Is Addicting: Scientists Show That Drinking Releases Brain Endorphins