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Why Can’t I Stop Drinking?

June 24, 2022
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 24, 2022
7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 24, 2022
7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 24, 2022
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 24, 2022
7 min read

Are you one of those people who wouldn’t even look at a bottle of beer for days, but when you do, you can’t seem to put it down? Have you been asking yourself “Why can’t I stop drinking?” Well, you're not alone! There are numerous people out there who, like you, don't drink daily, but once they start, they find it hard to stop. Sounds a bit unnerving, doesn't it?

But don't worry! We are here not to frighten you but to help you understand what's going on. Let’s explore the science behind occasional binge drinking, with insights from the latest research to help you manage this potentially unhealthy behavior. It’s all about understanding your brain, your body, and the intriguing relationship they share with alcohol.

The Science Behind It All

Did you know that drinking habits are heavily influenced by the brain's neurochemical activity? Exciting recent research from scientists at Stanford University showed that alcohol affects a specific part of our brain known as the nucleus accumbens, a key player in our reward system.

When we consume alcohol, it triggers the release of dopamine in this area, which is experienced as pleasure. It's akin to eating a delicious piece of cake or listening to your favorite song. The brain goes, "Hey, that's fun. Let's do it again!" This mechanism can be particularly potent for occasional drinkers, making it hard to stop once they start.

Alcohol and Self-Control

Why can't we just stop drinking after one or two drinks, you might ask? Well, alcohol also impacts the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. As we drink, our ability to make wise decisions gradually decreases, often leading to that "just one more" mindset.

Moreover, there's evidence suggesting that individuals who display intermittent, heavy drinking habits might have a genetic predisposition. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed that specific genetic variations can make some people more susceptible to binge drinking.

Binge Drinking: the Dangers

The problem is, binge drinking — even occasional — can have very serious consequences. It can lead to alcohol poisoning — a severe and potentially deadly reaction to an alcohol overdose. The symptoms can range from confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, pale or blue-tinged skin, low body temperature, and unconsciousness.

In the longer term, repeated binge drinking can lead to severe health conditions. Heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of numerous diseases, including liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer.

Additionally, alcohol can affect the immune system, making binge drinkers more susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink excessively.

The impact of binge drinking extends beyond the physical, deeply affecting mental health as well. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the balance of chemicals in our brain. Over time, heavy drinking can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase the risk of developing these conditions.

Breaking the Cycle

Now that we have a better understanding of why we find it difficult to stop drinking once we start, let's talk about what we can do to break this cycle.

A prominent method that has gained scientific backing is mindfulness training. Research conducted at the University of Washington showed that mindful meditation could reduce the risk of heavy drinking by enhancing self-control.

Also, a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown promising results. It involves changing the thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviors. According to research, CBT is effective in controlling binge drinking episodes.

Nudging Towards a Healthy Lifestyle

Getting professional help is always a good idea, but there are also a few tips and tricks to get you started on this journey towards cutting back or quitting alcohol:

  • Setting drinking limits. Decide beforehand how many drinks you're going to have and stick to it.
  • Alcohol-free days. Establish certain days of the week as alcohol-free days.
  • Switch it up. Try substituting alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ones.

The journey of understanding and changing our drinking habits isn't a straight one, and it's okay to take baby steps. Remember, every small step in the right direction is a victory!

Here's to making better choices and nurturing healthier habits. Until next time, stay curious and keep exploring!

Ready to Start Your Healing Journey?

If you’re concerned about your drinking patterns and are ready to start making positive changes in your life, the Reframe app is here to help you get started! The tools and skills in the app can help you rethink the role of alcohol in your life and shift toward healthier patterns.

With our # 1-rated app, you will be able to access daily readings that will help you develop new habits and skills. You will also receive a set of daily tasks, including a journal prompt, guided meditations, and motivational quotes to help guide and inspire you along the way.

Our community of caring, compassionate people is ready to help by sharing their stories and advice 24/7 through our Forum chat! We can also connect you with licensed coaches for one-on-one counseling sessions and daily check-in calls via Zoom.

The Reframe in-app Toolkit contains a wealth of resources that will provide you with additional knowledge and help you sharpen your new skills. And since the Reframe app is free for 7 days, you can try it today risk-free! We are confident that we can help you make meaningful changes in your life. See you in the app!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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