Psychologists who are trained and experienced in treating alcohol problems can be helpful in many ways. Before the drinker seeks assistance, a psychologist can guide the family or others in helping to increase the drinker’s motivation to change. For clinical and research purposes, formal diagnostic criteria for alcoholism also have been developed. Such criteria are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as in the International Classification Diseases, published by the World Health Organization. GABA acts in part through GABAA receptors, which serve as ion channels for chloride ions (Cl−).

Stimulants – Alcohol and Drug Foundation


Posted: Tue, 21 Nov 2023 08:00:00 GMT [source]

Within such a circuit, information is passed between neurons via electrochemical signaling processes. Activated neurons release chemical signaling molecules (i.e., neurotransmitters) that bind to specific proteins (i.e., receptors) on other neurons. Depending on the neurotransmitter involved, this binding leads to the electrical excitation or inhibition of subsequent neurons in the circuit.

Impact on your health

Social and environmental factors such as peer pressure and the easy availability of alcohol can play key roles. Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence. As previously noted, increased anxiety represents a significant component of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Importantly, this negative-affect state may contribute to increased risk for relapse as well as perpetuate continued use and abuse of alcohol (Becker 1999; Driessen et al. 2001; Koob 2003; Roelofs 1985). Indeed, both preclinical and clinical studies suggest a link between anxiety and propensity to self-administer alcohol (Henniger et al. 2002; Spanagel et al. 1995; Willinger et al. 2002). During puberty, accelerating cascades of growth factors and sex hormones set off sexual maturation, growth in stature and muscle mass, and bone development.

  • In the presence of alcohol (ethanol, purple circles), the activity of the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-proprionic acid receptors (AMPARs), is inhibited, reducing cation entry into the cell.
  • By modifying the required response (e.g., increasing the number of lever presses required before the alcohol is delivered) researchers can determine the motivational value of the stimulus for the animal.
  • Teenagers with higher positive expectancies (for example, that drinking is pleasurable and desirable) are more likely to start drinking at an earlier age and to drink more heavily (Christiansen et al., 1989; Dunn & Goldman, 1998).

Alcohol is implicated in a high proportion of cases of child neglect and abuse, and heavy drinking was identified as a factor in 50% of child protection cases (Orford et al., 2005). Harmful alcohol use and dependence are relatively uncommon before the age of 15 years, but increase steeply to reach a peak in the early 20s, this being the period when alcohol use-disorders are most likely to begin. One US general population study found the prevalence of alcohol dependence to be 2% in 12- to 17-year-olds, rising to 12% in 18- to 20–year-olds (Grant et al., 2004a).

What kind of substance is alcohol?

An alternative to operant procedures, free-choice responding allows researchers to examine alcohol consumption and preference in rats in their home-cage environment. In this procedure, alcohol is available to the animals via normal drinking bottles in the home cage. Free-choice procedures incorporate a variety of experimental manipulations, such as offering multiple bottles with different alcohol concentrations, varying the schedules of when and for how long alcohol is available, and adding flavorants to available solutions.

which is the best description of physiological dependence on alcohol

Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male has five or more drinks within two hours or a female has at least four drinks within two hours. All of this points to the importance of addressing the needs of family members of people physiological dependence on alcohol who misuse alcohol. This includes the need for specialist treatment services to assess the impact of the individual’s drinking on family members and the need to ensure the safety of children living with people who misuse alcohol. It is estimated that approximately 63,000 people entered specialist treatment for alcohol-use disorders in 2003–04 (Drummond et al., 2005).


Further, a psychologist may play an important role in coordinating the services a drinker in treatment receives from various health professionals. Different stressors likewise robustly reinstated extinguished alcohol-reinforced responding in different operant reinstatement models of relapse (Funk et al. 2005; Gehlert et al. 2007; Le et al. 2000, 2005; Liu and Weiss 2002b). This effect appears to involve CRF activity because CRF antagonists block stress-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior (Gehlert et al. 2007; Le et al. 2000; Liu and Weiss 2002b). In addition to these approaches, the negative reinforcing effects of alcohol can be examined using all the models described above (see the section entitled “Positive Reinforcement”), except that testing occurs during imposed withdrawal/abstinence from alcohol. For example, alcohol withdrawal decreases the reward value of ICSS because the threshold of electrical stimulation required to maintain responding is increased (Schulteis et al. 1995).

which is the best description of physiological dependence on alcohol

During alcohol withdrawal, serotonin release in the nucleus accumbens of rats is suppressed, and this reduction is partially reversed by self-administration of alcohol during withdrawal (Weiss et al. 1996). In the United States, 17.6 million people — about one in every 12 adults — abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent. And alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18 to 29 and lowest among adults ages 65 and older. We also know that people who start drinking at an early age — for example, at age 14 or younger — are at much higher risk of developing alcohol problems at some point in their lives compared to someone who starts drinking at age 21 or after.