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Alcohol addiction is a disease that affects the biochemistry and function of the brain adversely due to its depressant effects. Impaired judgment, memory, and eventual dependence and addiction are some of the severe effects. This addiction is learned through a behaviorism paradigm where alcohol acts as external stimuli. The brain responds in a neuroadaptation response, and the individual gets into chronic alcohol use as a means of satisfying the stimulated urge and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. At this level, the individual is best termed as an alcohol addict.
Alcohol Addiction as a Learned Behavior
Alcohol addiction is generally considered a disease of the brain since alcohol addiction alters the biochemistry and physiology of the brain. The damage that is inflicted on the brain leads to continual alcohol use as the individual’s judgment is impaired; thus, the actions are also impaired.
Alcohol is classified as a “central nervous system depressant” (Maurer & Smith, 2005, p. 557), hence a slowdown in brain activity results. The effects of alcohol are more pronounced in the brain since the brain receives a lot of blood, which carries the dissolved alcohol. Dunlap (n.d.) mentions that alcohol causes intoxication and impairment in the functions of the central nervous system (CNS). Sensory, memory, and judgment abilities are therefore greatly impaired by alcohol. Consuming alcohol over a long time leads to alcohol dependency and CNS tolerance as well as augmentation. Alcohol also causes the problem of learned behavior syndrome, ‘wet brain’ as well as addiction.
Behaviorism in Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction can be explained using the behaviorism paradigm of learning. The behaviorism paradigm posits that for every behavior that is exhibited, there must be environmental stimuli that triggered it. In this regard, the internal state of mind is deemed irrelevant in explaining behavior. The learner of the behavior is considered to take a passive role in learning the behavior in that he/she acts in response to external stimuli. Once the behavior has been instituted, the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring is usually high.
Looking into alcohol addiction, an individual starts with initiating alcohol intake where the GABA receptors are activated, and glutamate receptors are inhibited (Boggan, 2010). Upon stopping alcohol intake, the part of the brain that had been triggered feels inefficient, and there is a strong craving to satisfy the trigger (a form of neuroadaptation). With the first intake of alcohol acting as the external stimuli, the brain is made to respond to the stimuli by wanting to stay in the triggered state. Withdrawal from alcohol intake, therefore, creates a greater urge to respond to the activated state.
This makes the individual take more and more alcohol to satisfy chronic craving. Since the behavior of alcohol dependence is already instituted as a means of satisfying specific cravings in the brain, the individual can do nothing much in preventing alcohol intake in the future. This recurrence in alcohol intake to the level where the individual cannot bear the absence of alcohol and alcohol puts the individual into an addiction state.
It is observed that since alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic drug, withdrawing from alcohol addiction leads to severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, anxiety, hallucinations (visual/auditory), confusion, and irritability. In addition, there is physical dependence where the individual continues to consume alcohol, although its harmful effects are experienced in alcohol abuse. The behaviorism learning paradigm can explain the continued consumption of alcohol in that once the brain is stimulated to depend on alcohol, withdrawing alcohol leads to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Sedative-hypnotic drugs seem to relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and dependence (Behavioral Medicine Associates, 2009). As such, this leads to more alcohol intake to achieve the beneficial effects of sedative-hypnotics; thus, breaking the addiction becomes almost impossible. The initial stimuli of the brain by alcohol can therefore be said to evoke a continual response on the brain, which is best described as alcohol addiction.
Behavioral Medicine Associates. (2009). Alcohol addiction. Web.
Boggan, B. (2010). Alcohol, chemistry and you: alcohol addiction. Web.
Dunlap, M. P. (n.d). Biological impacts of alcohol use: an overview. Web.
Maurer, F. A. and Smith, C. M. (2005). Community/public health nursing practice: health for families and populations, 3rd edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 0721603548, 9780721603544.