Contributions to Understanding the Neuropsychology of Alcoholism: An INS Legacy PMC

Addressing alcoholism and alcoholic thinking requires a multifaceted approach that involves both prevention and treatment strategies. Prevention strategies focus on reducing the risk factors and enhancing protective factors to prevent the onset of alcoholism. These may include public health campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, as well as educational programs that teach coping skills and stress management. They have also treated their underlying issues (mental health, spiritual, physical) that led to or resulted from their drinking. These alcoholics have found a way to fill the void once satisfied by alcohol through spiritual, emotional and/or behavioral solutions that they have learned through treatment, therapy, medication management and/or mutual-help groups (A.A., SMART Recovery).

Does Alcoholic Thinking Predispose Individuals to Alcohol Use?

Many alcoholics tell their counselors that it is the overwhelming fear of withdrawing physically and psychologically from alcohol that prevents them from seeking help. Alcohol also forces the brain to release massive amounts of dopamine into a part of the brain that controls feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Once the brain of an alcoholic gets used to feeling “great” due to alcohol’s disruption of the CNS system and neurotransmitters, it “tells” the alcoholic to drink again or suffer the consequences of withdrawal symptoms.

Navigating the Implications of Alcoholic Thinking for Treatment and Prevention

You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to relatives, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help. Consider talking with someone who has had a problem with drinking but has stopped. Of course, Bob wasn’t fired compare different sober houses because his boss wanted to hire a nephew and Mary’s excuse for drinking because she lost a child and her husband must work 60 hours a week to make ends meet are ridiculous. It denies, blames others, blatantly refuses to admit a drinking problem and does everything possible to reinforce the delusion of blamelessness.

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Alcohol Use Disorder is a pattern of disordered drinking that leads to significant distress. It can involve withdrawal symptoms, disruption of daily tasks, discord in relationships, and risky decisions that place oneself or others in danger. About 15 million American adults and 400,000 adolescents suffer from alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse alcohol addiction and Alcoholism. Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior. Theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to alcohol use disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 15 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Effective Ways to Move Past White Knuckle Sobriety

Triggers become engrained in addiction, so it’s valuable to recognize these cues, avoid them, and replace them with new behaviors, such as calling a sponsor or loved one when craving alcohol, which can help avoid a relapse. Furthermore, studies indicate that repetitive negative thinking, such as rumination and worry, may influence alcohol use and vice versa, suggesting a bidirectional relationship. When individuals use alcohol to manage their mental health issues, they risk exacerbating these problems and reinforcing negative thought patterns. Alcohol consumption has significant effects on the brain, influencing behavior, cognition, and emotions. Research has shown that alcohol can enhance emotional reactivity and induce a positive mood in non-threatening environments, potentially reinforcing its use. The study on the acute effects of alcohol on decision making elucidates how these mood alterations may contribute to ‘alcoholic thinking’ patterns.

Treatment centers should ideally have rigorous and reliable screening for substance use disorders and related conditions. They should have an integrated treatment approach that addresses other mental and physical health conditions. They should emphasize linking different phases of care, such as connecting patients to mental health professionals, housing, and peer support groups when transitioning out of the acute phase of care. They should also have proactive strategies to avoid dropping out, involve the family in treatment, employ qualified and certified staff, and be accredited by an external regulatory organization. If the drinking world is conceptualized as a spectrum, normal social drinking is one on end (a few drinks per month, almost always in a social context) and alcohol use disorder is on the other end.

  1. While many people may use the term “alcoholic” to describe someone who has an alcohol addiction, the term is offensive and outdated.
  2. Alcohol accelerates the decline of frontal cortical gray matter and slows the increase of white matter volume during adolescence, increasing the risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in adulthood.
  3. Structural imaging scans of alcoholic brains show brain volume loss in the frontal lobe and cerebellum.
  4. Call us today to speak with a Recovery Advocate for free about your treatment options.

Follow-up of this cohort after discharge revealed that approximately half relapsed and half maintained abstinence. The abstainers showed further improvement, whereas relapsers showed further shrinkage of white matter and expansion of the third ventricle (Pfefferbaum et al., 1995). Further follow-up indicated that the more relapsers had drunk over the 5-year interval, the greater their volume loss of cortical gray matter (Pfefferbaum, Sullivan, Rosenbloom, Mathalon, & Lim, 1998) (Figure 7). These results have now been replicated with higher-resolution imaging of regional brain macrostructure (e.g., Segobin et al., 2014) and imaging protocols focused on white matter microstructure (e.g., Pfefferbaum et al., 2014). At any moment, someone’s aggravating behavior or our own bad luck can set us off on an emotional spiral that threatens to derail our entire day.

Remaining unknown, however, are the mechanisms and means of neural recovery and whether recovery can ever be complete. The latter requires knowledge about pre-AUD neurostructural and neurobehavioral conditions, which can be determined only with prospective study. Remarkably, ventricular expansion, a macrostructural signature of prolonged, chronic, dependent-level alcohol consumption, is reversible, at least in part, with sustained abstinence.

Health care providers can screen adults and provide brief behavioral counseling to those engaging in risky drinking. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends this practice to reduce unhealthy alcohol consumption. Additionally, educational campaigns aimed at specific populations, like adolescents art and creativity in addiction recovery and pregnant women, have shown promise in increasing awareness and reducing risky behaviors. Furthermore, the issue of whether alcohol use exacerbates mental health issues or if pre-existing mental health conditions lead to increased alcohol use is a significant component of this discussion.

The condition ranges in severity from mild to severe, creating a detrimental impact on the individual’s life. Preventing and treating alcoholic thinking is pivotal in addressing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and related cognitive patterns. Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions (CBI) have shown promise in managing alcohol and other drug use by fostering significant changes in thought and behavior. Integrated CBI, in particular, has demonstrated a modest but significant effect on alcohol studies, suggesting that tailored interventions may enhance treatment outcomes (source).

Like all addictions, alcohol use disorder is linked to a complex combination of biological, social, and psychological factors. Research highlights a genetic component to the disorder, as about half of one’s predisposition to alcoholism can be attributed to genetic makeup. People may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with trauma or other, often unrecognized psychological disorders.

Do you continue to drink even though you know it’s causing health problems, or making those problems worse? Although you realize it’s harming you, a physical or emotional dependence on alcohol can make quitting hard. There are times when you want a drink so badly, you can’t think about anything else until you get one.

Alcoholism resources and more information on the topic of high-functioning alcoholics are available here. When an alcoholic is “sober” from alcohol without attending a mutual-help program, therapy, medication management and/or treatment then they are in a sense “white-knuckling” their sobriety (also referred to as being a “dry drunk”). Don’t feel bad, but do consider cutting back on drinking — or quitting altogether. The more things you said “yes” to, the more important it is that you take action or seek help from a health professional. While you’re drunk, your brain doesn’t grasp the short-term and big-picture results that could come from poor decisions and getting into risky situations like driving, swimming, fighting, having unsafe sex, or walking in a dangerous area. We’re not talking about just the time with a glass (or can, or bottle) in your hand.