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The dark path of Alcohol Addiction

People often ponder upon the ageless question,” What is the path to Happiness ?”. A widely accepted, philosophically sound yet anti climactic answer is, “There is no path to happiness, for happiness is a state of being rather than a destination”. A great many individuals have devised methodologies and arts to grab this brass ring of gratification, some trade patience for longevity, others impulsivity for swift grasp. Amongst many such crafts for contentment, there are certain approaches that deceive people, enamoring them with ecstasy initially but offering nothing but anguish once the person treads a few steps. The path that is being foretold here is Addiction, the phenomenon that provides pleasure to the brain initially but brings pain eventually and is compulsive in nature. In this month’s blog, I aim to shed some light on the taboo topic of Alcohol Addiction. A disclaimer before probing and analyzing this issue, the following article does intend not to suggest any medical remedies or provide any cures for any ailment, before taking any medical step please consult a medically qualified professional.

Upon hearing about the term Alcoholism, one tends to imagine some poor folk quaffing beverage after beverage, but it is appropriate to present the scientifically devised term Alcohol use disorder, which is an umbrella term coined to cover all facets of alcohol consumption that harm anatomy and psychology . Correct questions act as building blocks in comprehending certain topics, a couple of questions in case of alcohol addiction are as follows, “Why is there a need to consume addictive substances?” and “What makes them so addictive?”. These two questions forge the foundation for two subsets of addiction, “The Genetics” and “ The Acquired”.  In case of subset one, the genetic makeup of about half the individuals make them more susceptible to being addicts. People with a familial history of alcohol abuse are more vulnerable to this peril compared to people with no such case. Now I am no pharmacologist myself, but basic research brings a sizable chunk of explanation for this issue. The consumption of a psychoactive substance such as alcohol (it’s chemical nomenclature being ethanol) initiates various responses in a wide variety of receptors across the human body. One such receptor is opioid receptor which reacts to and plays a function in release of endorphins and endogenous opioids. The endogenous opioids produce pleasure and another neurotransmitter Dopamine, which motivates your psyche to produce more opioids. Once you consume a beverage, your brain registers a sensation of instant gratification by releasing endorphins and endogenous opioids. Next time you are subjected to any such trigger that your brain links to alcohol, it releases dopamine, which results in cravings. The disproportionate release of these neurotransmitters results in able minded adults becoming slaves for their poison. Going cold turkey sober for such individuals might work in some cases but in others leads to relapses and withdrawal symptoms, which become worse with progression. There is no sure shot way of knowing if one’s genetic makeup is susceptible to this issue or not without passing the slippery slope of attempting it. 

For individuals whose day to day existence is ravaged by horrors of alcohol, there is a silver ray of hope. A scientifically backed alternative to cold turkey sober detox called The Sinclair Method. It was devised by Dr John David Sinclair and works on the scientific principle of Pharmacological Extinction, which is a complicated term for habit erasing phenomenon. Something that seems to be clearly out of sci fi books is a part of reality now. TSM ( shortened form of The Sinclair Method ) uses Naltrexone, an opiate blocking drug. Naltrexone prohibits the release of pleasure providing neurotransmitters in your brain which in term curb the cravings, eventually over a period of 3-4 months. The method demands, addict to consume a pill of naltrexone and then consume a glass of any alcoholic substance after an hour. The common notion that people undergoing this treatment provide is that drinking as an activity now feels devoid of all joy. All other effects of alcohol remain constant just the enjoyment is insulated in this procedure. Once there is little to no release of dopamine on coming across any trigger, the individual is back in control of his or her mental faculties instead of the other way round.

TSM helps a great many individuals each year who wish to quit this vice and hold the reigns of their life by themselves but there are other misery laden souls stuck in this snare trap. 

There is a shockingly high number of individuals who may not be biologically wired to get attracted to addictions but fall down this path of disgrace nonetheless. Just as there is more than one factor that dictates the results of any one event, in case of alcoholism if it is not genetics and biology, then it is circumstances.  A startling number of abuse victims or psychologically tormented individuals surrender their control to addictive substances, only to live a short life of euphoria and misery entwined. A famous quote by RD Liang describes their plight befittingly,“There are three things that human beings are afraid of: death, other people, and their own minds”. Some unfortunate souls consume liquor for the temporary calmness it ushers throughout their perception. For these miserable folk, reality offers less hope compared to the inconceivable oblivion. A great number of people who are battling different kinds of wars on the inside, fall prey to the vice of addiction on the outside. For these individuals, not feeling the burden of existence for a mere hour or two is a joy that is unmatched. Being honest about this situation, the functioning society does not want these derelicts, they do not comprehend their struggles or pity them in truest sense. In such grim situations, the outcast and destitutes of the society must band together. For recovering addicts, the job of reshaping their life is being done by Alcoholics Anonymous.It is an international fellowship of people who’ve struggled with alcohol addiction founded in the USA in 1935 by Dr Bob smith and Bill W. Ever Since its inception, AA has covered ground on all continents, across major cities in most countries and has aided many recovering alcoholics in achieving and maintaining their sobriety . It is a non professional , self funded and peer led organization which extends its warmth to any addict that walks through its door. AA is built on the principle of abstinence and claims that they are a treatment for alcoholism not a cure. Begun by good faith and functioning on spirituality more than science, AA spread their gospel in form of 12 steps of recovery, weekly meetings and sponsorship programs. The 12 steps guide any recovering addict in their journey of sobriety by helping them consciously navigate through their recovery period. The steps initially instruct one to admit their powerlessness over alcohol and how their life is unmanageable at this point. Then they instruct one to be mindful of the wrongdoings they’ve committed and how to ask for forgiveness from the higher spiritual power and near & dear ones they’ve hurt in the wake of their follies. The eventual end of these steps is to lead addicts to a spiritual awakening and permanent sobriety. The weekly meetings promote recovered or recovering addicts to share their experiences good or bad in communion so that they might be a conduit of hope for the other strugglers while an exercise in admittance for one who is sharing. Finally, sponsorship program pairs recovered addicts or long time AA members with addicts who’ve just taken the first step of their journey. The more experienced members can authentically relate to the problems of novices and offer genuine answers to such issues. AA is often ridiculed due to it’s spiritual nature but statistics show a tremendous social change that propagates from this grass root level organisation. The highbrow, perhaps scholarly reason for the success of AA is that it creates a psychosocial effect that aids recovering addicts in metamorphosis, but a more humane reason being that these individuals in despair relate to each other, offering genuine advice and acting as role models to each other without judgement.

Now I in no way equate drinking a glass or two of wine to alcoholic addiction, there is absolutely no problem in responsible social drinking. But for many individuals, alcohol is a harbinger of downfall. On a societal level, alcohol is a contributor in premature mortality,disease, disability, economic burden, lost productivity ,criminal justice and health care costs. The number of people who have to live a life of servitude to booze and finally give it up is shockingly high for something that is a disorder that is still not recognized as a medical condition.The intensity of misfortune that is initiated by addiction is a travesty that is reflected on all fronts of life, nothing records the effects of a sadness as graphically as the human life. 

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