The importance of pharmacological treatment in the face of alcoholism

Alcohol is the most widely consumed drug in the world, and although the habitual use of this substance is highly standardized in virtually all societies and cultures, the fact remains that the addiction it can cause has very serious effects on physical and mental health.

Perhaps because people with alcoholism problems are common, there is a whole host of stereotypes and preconceptions about what has historically been considered the “drunkard”; beliefs and stereotypes that lead to the criminalization of those who suffer from this type of addiction because it is assumed that what happens to them is a problem of “mental weakness”, lack of will to improve and integrate well into society .

However, the truth is, alcoholism is way beyond individual preferences, personal decisions, and how they set priorities. In other words, it has nothing to do with a particular philosophy of life. It is an addictive disorder that includes behavioral disorders and changes in the functioning of the nervous system, which means that it is a pathology with a psychological part and a biological part. And the latter implies that, when treating alcoholism, it is usually necessary to rely on the use of drugs. Let’s see why.

    Why do addictions require psychiatric support?

    Addictions have a psychological and social side, and a biological and medical side. Intervening in both facets of the problem is essential in providing long-term solutions for people with addiction disorders, and therefore psychiatric support is essential.

    What is the “psychiatric” side of alcohol addiction? It has to do with how this substance interacts with our nerve cells. Although other drinks and foods are involved in our psychological processes more indirectly through taste, in the case of alcohol it is not the stimuli picked up by the taste buds that lead us to “stick” to this kind of product (in fact, most early experiences with alcohol are unpleasant in this regard).

    What generates addiction is the way alcohol interacts with the neurons in our brain, because unlike other molecules, it has the ability to cross the barrier that separates the circulatory system from the nervous system, and this allows it to be picked up by our neurons.

    So when alcohol reaches nerve cells, it activates them in the same way as our neurotransmitters, molecules present in our nervous system and used by neurons to communicate with each other. But the nervous reaction generated by alcohol is abnormal, and in fact, it makes our reward system, the part of the brain responsible for detecting pleasurable situations that we have to repeat over and over again, very active. In this way, alcohol “Hack” our brain by making it look like a good experience for us, one that doesn’t really suit us: consumption of alcoholic beverages.

      The usefulness of pharmacological treatment in the face of alcoholism

      As we have seen, alcoholism is an addiction where the individual develops a physical and psychological dependence on the alcohol present in the drinks. usually the consumption of these products begins in recreational contexts and gradually invades all aspects of a person’s daily life., including work and activities at home.

      As with other addictions, alcohol not only interferes with the functioning of a person’s neurons, but also transforms the way they interconnect and establish neural activation patterns; In this way, the individual’s nervous system gets used to working with a large amount of alcohol available in the blood, part of which crosses the blood-brain barrier and attaches to receptors in nerve cells.

      This way, just quitting alcohol causes great discomfort, among other things because a person’s brain momentarily “drinks” when it suffers from an imbalance in its levels of available chemicals; this is what causes withdrawal syndrome.

      In addition, as time passes the brain adapts more and more to the presence of alcohol in the body, the person more and more needs to consume more to have the feeling of be full, and on the other hand, it is also necessary to consume more to keep the withdrawal syndrome at bay. The result is a vicious circle: the more time passes without alcoholism being treated, the more psychopathology is anchored both in the habits of the individual and in the functioning of his own nervous system.

      The use of mind-altering drugs to help alcoholics stems from the idea that overcoming this addiction is not enough to simply stop drinking. It is necessary to support the person in this process which is always progressive and lasts between several months and several years., and be aware that “getting off” from alcoholism involves maintaining a relatively delicate balance in the functioning of your nervous system, since in many cases if the brain suddenly runs out of alcohol it can trigger health problems resulting from it. ‘a chemical imbalance.

      In addition, we must not forget that the challenge of getting out of drug use involves dealing with very intense emotions. Usually, the early stages of drug treatment go hand in hand with times of great anxiety and stress, and mind-altering medications can be of great help in preventing the symptoms of these emotional disturbances from relapsing or falling asleep. in trouble.

      In addition, since many psychotropic drugs have the potential to generate addictions, these processes should always be supervised by healthcare professionals, which prescribe specific drugs and adjust the dose and frequency of taking.

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        Bibliographical references

        • American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
        • Govaert, P .; de Vries, LS (2010). A neonatal cerebral ultrasound atlas: (CDM 182-183). John Wiley & Sons.
        • Moggi F, Giovanoli A, Strik W, Moos BS, Moos RH (January 2007). “Substance Abuse Treatment Programs in Switzerland and the United States: Characteristics and Outcomes of the 1-Year Program.” Drug and alcohol addiction. 86 (1): 75 to 83. Neuropharmacology, 61 (7): p. 1109 – 1122.
        • Olsen, CM (2011). Natural rewards, neuroplasticity and non-drug addictions.
        • Volkow, North Dakota; Koob, GF; McLellan, AT (2016). Neurobiological advances in the brain disease addiction model. New England Journal of Medicine. 374 (4): p. 363 – 371.

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