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Why is alcohol addictive?

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Alcohol addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder associated with compulsive drinking. It is the result of losing control over alcohol intake and developing a negative emotional condition when alcohol is not present.

Alcohol abuse disorder (AUD)- a condition that impairs one’s ability to control or stop alcohol use, despite adverse health, occupational, and social consequences. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. This disorder is also known as alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism. The moderate-to-severe end of the AUD spectrum is alcohol addiction.

What causes addiction in the brain?

Like other drugs, alcohol has a strong effect on the brain. It produces pleasurable emotions and blunts negative feelings. These feelings can drive people to continue drinking alcohol despite the potential dangers to their health.

Research has shown that while drinking to manage stress can temporarily relieve emotional discomfort, it tends to increase negative emotions between alcohol intake. These changes can encourage further drinking and lead to an unhealthy cycle of alcohol abuse.

People who continue to drink alcohol may experience progressive brain changes. These changes can lead to brain dysfunction and a transition from occasional, controlled use to chronic misuse. This cannot be easy to manage. In addition, these changes can last long after an individual stops drinking alcohol and can lead to relapse.

The Addiction Cycle: Stages

Addiction can be described as a three-stage cycle. Each stage feeds off the other. These domains are executive function, incentive salience, and negative emotional states.

These domains are represented in three brain regions: the basal Ganglia, the extended Amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. You can go through the three-stage cycle in weeks or months. Or, you may progress through it multiple times per day.

  1. Intoxication/Binge Stage: rewards, incentive salience, and pathological habits
  • This stage is when a person feels the positive effects of alcohol, such as euphoria and anxiety reduction. It also allows for more social interaction.
  • The reward system of the basal gland is activated repeatedly, which reinforces alcohol consumption and increases the chance of repeat consumption. The basal Ganglia is essential in motivating and forming routine behavior.
  • The repeated activation of basal ganglia can also trigger changes in how a person reacts to stimuli related to alcohol consumption, such as people, places, or alcohol-associated cues like specific glassware, images, or descriptions of drinking. These stimuli can eventually trigger strong urges to drink alcohol.
  • Consistent alcohol use can also lead to changes in the basal Ganglia, eventually leading to compulsive drinking.

2 Negative Affect/Withdrawal Stage – reward shortages and stress surfeit

  • A person who has become addicted to alcohol will experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms are symptoms that are not related to the benefits of alcohol. These symptoms may be physical (sleep disorders, pain, feeling sick) and emotional (dysphoria and irritability).
  • Two sources are believed to be responsible for the negative emotions associated with alcohol withdrawal. First, a decrease in activation of the reward systems, or a reward deficit, of the basal Ganglia makes it more challenging to enjoy the joys and pleasures of daily living. Increased activation in the brain’s stress system–or a stress surplus–in the extended Amygdala can lead to anxiety, irritability, and unease.
  • This stage is when the individual stops drinking alcohol for pleasure (“high”) and instead uses it to escape the “low” emotions to which chronic alcohol abuse has contributed.

3 Preoccupation/Anticipation Stage: craving, impulsivity, and executive function

  • This is when an individual begins to drink again after abstinence. This stage is when a person is obsessed with alcohol and the ways to get more. They look forward to the next time they will drink it.
  • Alcohol addiction can lead to a reduction in the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain that controls executive function. This includes planning thoughts and activities, prioritizing tasks, and managing time. This is why this brain area plays a crucial role in this stage.


Hyperkatifeia can be described as the negative emotional state associated with drug withdrawal. It is believed that this overactive, negative emotional state can lead to the use of alcohol to get relief. This may be due to profound brain reward and stress system changes.

What Should We Do About Alcohol Addiction and AUD?

Alcohol intake is associated with many social and health consequences. These include interference with personal relationships and heart and liver diseases, cancers and motor vehicle collisions and other accidents, alcohol overdoses, violence, homicide, and suicide. Therefore, a person with AUD is more likely to drink alcohol regularly, especially with alcohol addiction.

Young people are particularly at risk of AUD. For example, adolescents who drink alcohol from preteens through their twenties may hurt brain development. This can increase the likelihood of developing AUD later in their lives.

However, most people with AUD can benefit from treatment regardless of age or severity. This includes behavioral health therapies, medication, or both. 

A joyful life without alcohol and drugs is possible, and we are here for you, helping with every step along your comfortable recovery process. Hathaway Recovery’s mission is to inspire individuals to be their best and most happy selves. With our sincere intentions, healing, and healthy ideas, lives are transformed.


  • Excellent treatment center. Hathaway put on the road to recovery, I been sober 2 years today! Thank you Dena and staff members!

    Mike M.
  • Hathaway has saved my family. Before we found Hathaway my daughter was suffering with addiction however once we came to this facility the staff took her in and she felt comfortable and by a couple months she was ready to come back home fully recovered. Thank you Hathaway Recovery for saving her and thank you for the wonderful staff.

    Gabby H.
  • First I’ll start by saying that, this facility is absolutely beautiful! A couple years ago my husband Tony attended Hathaway Recovery in Claremont Ca. While Tony was in residential he received every care needed for a successful recovery. Also, he was able to enjoy the home gym at the beautiful Hathaway home, it’s basketball court, pool and etc. which made his stay even more pleasant. I am forever grateful for the man Tony has become ever since his completion. He has two years clean under his belt and many more to come because of the amazing facility. Thanks again Hathaway Recovery and Staff, Keep Continuing Changing Lives, God Bless Diane and Tony

    Diane K.
  • I came to Hathaway Recovery on court orders stemming from charges due to not taking medications for my mental health. I was fearful of what my future held and what that would look like. I have never been to a dual diagnosis treatment program before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t think I had a substance abuse problem but after about 3-4 weeks of group therapy and the counselors here at this facility, I finally realized substance abuse influenced me to not be able to take care of my mental health. With the help of Hathaway Recovery’s team, I was able to build a strong foundation for my recovery that is vital to me and my family. The clinical staff, therapist, case managers, and counselors included, were honest, caring, and really helped me gain the knowledge I needed to build this recovery program and lifestyle. I am forever grateful for the treatment at Hathaway Recovery.

    Transition A.
  • My brother has been addicted for years. All our family gave up on him. Recently, he completed an inpatient residential program at Hathaway Recovery. This place is blessed and so helpful. It’s very luxurious, you feel like you are on vacation at a beautiful resort. Hathaway Recovery staff is very helpful, understanding and supportive. They all helped him to recover and to become a human again and enjoy his life. This place also supports family members and teaches them how to deal with aftercare to prevent relapse. Hathaway Recovery is the place for those who are struggling with addiction. Thank you for everything!

    Beauty D.
  • As a Trauma Informed Therapist I was contracted by Dina , the Owner to provide additional Trauma Informed Counseling. She indicated that she was seeking additional clinical services because her client population were enthusiastic about their recovery and she wanted to provide quality care. Working with Hathaway has been magical. This program does not separate addiction and mental health trauma into separate treatments, This program blends together the understanding that addicts have childhood trauma and have habitually used drugs or alcohol to dull their inner pain., Hathaway Recovery provides highly individual services for each client, including bilingual counseling. This is a program that I am proud to be a part of. Susan Pennington, LCSW – Trauma Informed Counseling Services.

    Susan P.
  • Hathaway Recovery Center is the real deal. They helped me find myself when I was completely lost. After I lost the mother of my child due to a tragic accident. The therapists and counselors truly cared. We made a relationship with each other that was unbreakable. The other clients were awesome roommates and true to me. The house managers were great and the living situations were awesome. If I ever even think about slipping up I’ll be returning. Today I have over one year clean.

    Jimmie R.
  • After searching many rehabs and after spending so much money to useless facilities we finally found Hathaway . From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank all the staff and all the residents that made my sons recovery easier from beginning to end.

    Gayane A.
  • Hathaway truly saved my life. I am so grateful to have had an opportunity to go there. I came in at absolute rock bottom, 9 rehabs later and countless sober livings. I can tell you that this treatment center is different then every other one I’ve ever been to.

    Justin J.
  • After running into some trouble with the law, a substance abuse counselor suggested that I check myself into Hathaway Recovery. Hathaway Recovery helped me get my life back together one step at a time. Through discipline, routine, and structure, I can honestly say that this treatment center has helped me tremendously! The staff are very helpful and caring to each person’s needs, and helped me to realize the beauty of living a sober life.

    Josh M.
  • Hathaway Recovery stuff saw potential In me when I couldn’t. They showed me a new way of life, a better life. Coming to Hathaway recovery is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m beyond grateful for everything the program has done for me!

    Gilberto F.
  • Finally, Hathaway is a Treatment Center that offers a holistic approach to addiction. This center offers a safe place, community and a network to grow with throughout your recovery process. They make you feel that you are NOT alone. The leadership has been in your shoes!!! Hathaway Recovery is more than just a temporary fix, it is a foundation, a movement, a family to be a part of.

    Anthony P.
  • One of the best places I have been too! They really know how to treat you and very professional!

    Ashley A.
  • Hathaway Recovery and their staff have been nothing but supportive and understanding throughout our family member’s journey. I truly appreciate all the staff and their hard work. The communication has been great and has provided us a really positive experience. I would highly recommend this facility to anyone looking for a rehabilitation center for themselves or a loved one. Thank you Hathaway Recovery!

    Lilit H.
  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • Hathaway is a warm caring treatment oriented environment to receive help from various addictions and behavioral problematic issues. The location itself is serene and safe.. I enjoyed the both staff/professional’s and patient’s… It has many services available, a very unique place… I recommend anyone to come and receive long-term treatment here at Hathaway…

  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

  • “There was no longer any doubt in my mind that I was in the right place for my drug abuse treatment, “Of all the rehabs I could have chosen, I am glad I picked The Hathaway Recovery Support hope respect and care is what i was offered thanks for everything Hathaway recovery you are the best

  • Hathaway Recovery is an awesome place the whole staff has been so helpful they are very professional and very nice Hathaway recovery is a great place to get your addiction treated my brother is doing very well there and we are so glad they were very understanding and willing to help him.

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  • When your loved one is sick and needs help you look for the best and I found the best for my son thank you for everything you did for him.


    Hathaway Recovery is an exclusive addiction rehab treatment center in California offering healing recovery from all substances. We’re proud to provide a great combination for drug, alcohol, psychiatric and psychological recovery treatment backed by experts in the addiction treatment field. Our drug and alcohol rehab is built on the cornerstone of care and compassion and accommodates clients and their families from all backgrounds to educate, inform, and create change around substance use disorder. In a secluded mountain hill luxury resort, our facility offers a therapeutic environment and array of clinical modalities to help individuals and their families. Our staff are also multilingual to address the needs of clients from anywhere in the world.

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