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  1. #1

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side
    Shifts in brain chemicals explain causes of alcoholism, relapses

    New studies of the effects of alcohol on brain chemistry help to explain why alcoholics experience long-lasting feelings of tension and distress. They also provide a key to why some drinkers develop alcoholism in the first place, and why they tend to relapse, even after protracted abstinence. The studies were described here today (note: this story is from 1999) at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

    George F. Koob, Ph.D., a scientist at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, said animal studies indicate that heavy drinking depletes the brain's supplies of dopamine, gamma aminobutyric acid, opioid peptides and serotonin systems--chemicals that are responsible for our feelings of pleasure and well-being. At the same time, it promotes the release of stress chemicals, such as corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), that create tension and depression. In combination, the depletion of pleasure chemicals and the stimulation of stress chemicals creates a persisting chemical imbalance that leaves the alcoholic vulnerable to relapse, he said.

    Hoping to suppress the dark feelings aroused by CRF, alcoholics drink more-but the more they drink, the more CRF is produced. This cycle ultimately raises the "set point" for alcohol intake, or the amount it takes to make an alcoholic feel "normal," according to Koob. He says some data from animal studies suggest that CRF remains active as long as four weeks after someone stops drinking.

    At present, family history is the only indicator of vulnerability to alcoholism. Among individuals who have an alcoholic parent, men have a five-to-one chance, and women a two- or three-to-one chance of developing the disease, said Koob. His study could point the way toward the identification of specific chemical markers-as an example, perhaps low levels of dopamine and high levels of CRF that could better warn of danger ahead.

  2. #2
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    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Interesting, especially the reference to the chances of a man or woman becoming an alcoholic if they have a parent who is an alcoholic (ie. men have a 5 to 1 chance, while women have a 2 or 3 to 1 chance). I was always under the impression that men had a higher probability of becoming alcoholics. But when I really think about it, it makes sense. A drunk woman is looked on a bit more unfavourably than a drunk man, which might cause a woman who likes to drink to keep her consumption private, which starts the lying and hiding a lot sooner. And in the end, this might just hurry up the process from normal, slightly neurotic girl into a fullfledged alcoholic woman. But I'm sure most of us know someone like this or might even be one themselves. So, if I don't drink for four weeks, I should be okay, in a brain chemistry sort of way?

  3. #3

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Remember that 4 week figure is from animal studies, not humans. Also, if you drink heavily over a prolonged period of time, some of the damage that occurs to areas of the brain (e.g., thalamus) and the liver may be irreversible.

    It's a question of how much for how long...

  4. #4
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    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hi.

    Well, I'm drunk again and I did well for two whole days, nothing of an alcoholic nature. I was so looking forward to saying how proud I was, that I was taking control, that I'm a "valiant human being", I "really " try. What a f****ing joke. I am the "complete loser", in the clearest sense.

    Mary

  5. #5

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hi Mary,

    I had a childhood friend that died from Cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 40. I had not seen her for years then about 5 yrs before she died I had called another childhood friend and we went to visit her because we heard how diffiuclt of a time she was having with drinking. She actually left to go to the bar after just visiting for 1/2 hr. We really felt there was nothing we could do and it was too hard for us to witness this.

    I think alcohol is one of the most destructive drugs when you include the emotional damage it does to families along with the physical of lives lost.

    I'm not sure if you are saying that you have an alcohol addiction but if you do I hope you get some treatment and counselling for it.

    Take care

  6. #6
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    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hi,

    I just wanted to apologize for my last message, completely inappropriate. I'm not addicted to alcohol, I abuse it. Thanks for responding HeartArt and I am getting help.

  7. #7

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hello Mary,

    I'm so glad you are getting help. There are better ways than alcohol to deal with your life difficulties. I hope that you can find these soon.

    Hugs

  8. #8

    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    It's good to know you're getting help, Mary. It's not an easy struggle, but it's a worthwhile one. Alcohol has no good to offer to anyone.

  9. #9
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    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hello again,

    I just finished reading a book called "Bulimia / Anorexia" by Marlene Boskind-White and William C. White. The first half of the book discusses something called "bulimarexia", I seem to recall hearing something about this a few years ago. Basically the authors describe a binge/purge type of behaviour with respect to food, different from anorexia and I wasn't sure how it differed from just plain bulimia. I just found it interesting that I treat alcohol in much the same way that many of the women in the case studies treated food, their symptoms (eg. eating in isolation - I always drink alone, eating a lot, to the point of painfulness - that's how I drink, I can go days but when I do drink, I binge, the guilt and shame associated with the behaviour - I know it's bad for me and I'm embarrassed). And before I could legally drink (I could count on one hand how many times I drank before the age of 18 and my parents were very strict) I did have odd habits with respect to food, i.e. binge eating and some laxative abuse. Could I have just traded one bad habit for another. At least with drinking you feel good for a few hours.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Alcohol: The Chemistry Of The Dark Side

    Hi,

    Just having a bad night. My husband, Ken, works night shifts and that's when I tend to drink. I just feel so alone. Ken can be pretty dependent on me and sometimes my only release is drinking.

    Weird eh.

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