Girl in depression drinking alcohol in solitude

Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused and addictive substances in the United States. The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 14.5 million people ages 12 and older in the United States have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). So, what is it about alcohol that makes it so addictive? Keep reading to find out.

Reasons Why Alcohol is Addictive

Endorphins Released

The brain releases endorphins when we drink alcohol, which is why we can feel confident, happy, and light when we’re drunk. A 2012 study found that some people’s brains release more endorphins despite drinking the same amount of alcohol as others. As these people get a significant surge of happiness and more pleasure out of drinking, they can be at a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction.

Brain Changes

As the brain experiences a surge of endorphins whenever it drinks, it can become physically dependent on this sensation. The brain’s reward centers are overloaded, and the brain develops cravings for this feeling to happen again. As a result, physical, emotional, and mental alcohol dependence can quickly occur.


Some people get addicted to alcohol for psychological reasons. If alcohol is used to cope with stress or anxiety, it can quickly become a crutch. For example, people may start to turn to alcohol to feel more comfortable in social settings or deal with their difficult job. After some time of relying on alcohol, it becomes a learned habit, and then a person naturally feels like they need a drink (or many drinks) to cope.


As the body receives an immediate positive response to alcohol (endorphin release), it can become physically dependent on the substance. People who have become physically dependent on alcohol will experience, sometimes intense, withdrawal symptoms when they try to cut back or stop drinking. These withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Often, those going through withdrawal symptoms – unlike they’re in a recovery program – will just start drinking again to make the symptoms stop.

Social Customs

Another reason alcohol is so addictive is that it’s ingrained into many people’s everyday lives. People catch up with friends, family, and coworkers over a drink. Alcohol is served at almost every occasion and celebration, is an ordinary gift to give one another, and is sometimes deemed “necessary” to fit in or have fun. For someone trying to give up alcohol, the constant presence of it everywhere they go can make going sober just that much more challenging.


Genetics also plays a role in alcohol use addiction. Some people are more naturally predisposed to alcohol addiction, especially if other family members have had an alcohol addiction before. For these people, staying away from even casual drinking may be the safest way to avoid AUD.

America’s Drug Rehab Campuses

Alcohol addiction shouldn’t be ignored as the long-term effects of this addiction are severe and can potentially be life-threatening. If you believe you might be dealing with addiction, get professional help. A rehab facility has the resources, training, and compassion to walk you through this difficult time. Get help today.