Neurotransmitters are communication ‘devices’ in the brain that help interpret stimulus. Dopamine specifically interprets and communicates pleasure. Drinking large amounts of alcohol produces large amounts of dopamine. Surging dopamine levels are noticeable to the rest of the brain, not just in the neurotransmitter’s pleasurable transmissions. Eventually, a part of the brain called the mid-brain picks up on the pleasurable necessity of alcohol’s presence. The mid-brain is responsible for managing the order of survival operations, like eating and sleeping. As the brain becomes dependent upon alcohol, the mid-brain introduces it as a part of survival. Overtime, it becomes survival’s most important criterium. Consequently, all situations that create any kind of fear, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, will be met with a craving for alcohol.
Cravings for alcohol don’t only arise from the trigger of alcohol itself. Breakups, new relationships, job anxiety, financial stress, social anxiety, and many other situations are triggering. For endless amounts of years, alcohol was our solution to everything. If we were anxious, we drank. Both celebrations and grievances were causes for drinking. Sunny days, rainy days, winter seasons, or spring- almost anything could inspire a drink. Especially difficult situations demanded the support of alcoholic libations. Underneath these occasions were hidden causalities- the real relationships between what we were experiencing and why we couldn’t cope with them without the presence of alcohol.
Looking at alcoholic patterns of behavior, we learn to discover those underlying causalities. Taking apart why we drank, we get down to why we started drinking in the first place. The disease of alcoholism is interdisciplinary in this way. Neuroscience suggests that alcoholism is a problem of the mind, which produces problems in the body. Recovery groups suggest that alcoholism is an allergic reaction to alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous sees alcoholism as a “spiritual malady”, curable by a psychic change through a spiritual experience.