According to medical science, alcohol addiction is a brain disease. In most cases it is hereditary and you are born with it. The brain is a complex organ that learns new patterns very quickly. Yet it is not just a disease in the brain. Other and no less important factors include the influence of the environment. This environment plays an important role in the development of alcohol addiction as a hereditary disease. The culture of a community or country plays an important role in alcohol consumption. We can perhaps also speak of a hereditary ‘sick’ culture.
Alcohol addiction is a hereditary brain disease
It’s something like; ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ Various studies indicate that alcohol consumption is hereditary. This is a physical hereditary condition. Are you naturally sensitive to alcohol or do you develop it yourself? People who start drinking at a young age will develop a strong alcohol dependence in themselves and for their offspring. The longer the person continues to drink, the more difficult it becomes to stop. He also passes on genes to offspring that are sensitive to alcohol. That does not mean that babies immediately scream for a bottle of drink. It is true that when children of heavy drinkers come into contact with alcohol, the body experiences this as a kind of missing puzzle piece.
Function of alcohol
When the drinker wants to stop, he often cannot. Other research concludes that alcohol disables an important function in the brain that allows you to quit. It remains a complex matter how alcohol addiction works in the brain. It is clear that it numbs the organs and stimulates the reward system. That’s the most important feature people want to experience. Under bad or good conditions, alcohol has acquired an important function for humans. If you are stressed, the anesthesia is like a gift from heaven. If you have won or have something to celebrate, the reward system will be extra stimulated. It becomes a disease of many complex systems and influences.
Alcohol addiction, culture and environment
The environment plays an important role in alcohol addiction. In the Netherlands we can talk about one or more small or large alcohol subcultures. Due to the influence of the environment, people drink faster and at a younger age. No large studies are needed for this. Alcohol abounds. It’s tasty and sometimes cheap. Just look at the many offers in supermarkets and liquor stores. Alcohol is served during most small or large parties. Alcohol advertising during major sporting events generates a lot of money. After a victory there should be partying with alcohol. Commercials on TV and on the street. Young people are susceptible to this. They see their great sports idols drinking and so they copy that behavior.
When does alcohol use become a problem? That question cannot always be answered properly. This varies per culture and situation. Causing a traffic accident while under the influence is such a problem. There are plenty of examples to think of. But that’s not really what this article is about. However, it seems good to see how something can be done when it has become a problem for someone.
Community Reinforcement Approach: Treatment of alcohol addiction
In the literature there are dozens and perhaps even hundreds of treatment methods for the disease of alcohol addiction . Whatever treatment is done, it naturally starts with the drinker himself. But as mentioned earlier, the environment plays an important role. The influence of the environment is also a legacy that we carry with us. In most cases we can do little to change the influence of that environment. So the quitting drinker has to learn to live with that.
Behavioral therapy method
The Community Reinforcement Approach is a method developed in the United States. The method is based on the principle that someone with an alcohol addiction remains dependent due to the many factors that stimulate drinking. The method works on a new lifestyle with alternatives to drinking alcohol. The method has now achieved many results in America and the literature has been translated into a Dutch manual. This means that the method can be directly applied to care in the Netherlands. The book describes all treatment components, step-by-step plans and assessments. Real-life examples describe problems and victories that can arise during treatment.
The risk always remains that a relapse may occur due to the influence of the environment. Family members can also start drinking and there is a risk that they too will drink alcohol excessively . The CRA method is a treatment that goes far beyond just the individual. However, we are dealing here with the own choice of posterity. The drinker and the practitioner have no voice when it comes to legally adult people. It is therefore very important that during a CRA treatment the family members must also be ‘drained’ for as long as possible. If this does not happen, either the quitting drinker runs the risk of relapse or the family members continue the ‘alcohol legacy’ .
Training and workshops
Since the method arrived in the Netherlands, it has grown. Roozen en Meyers Consultancy is an organization that wants to promote treatment throughout Europe. They do this through training, research, publishing literature and holding workshops. There are also training courses available that can help you become a certified CRA practitioner.