The core fact about alcoholism is that alcoholics are powerless over alcohol. This powerlessness is physical, meaning that they cannot control how much they drink. But it is also mental, meaning that alcoholics are powerless to stop drinking. Alcoholics get arrested, get divorced, and get fired all due to alcohol…but then they get drunk again. If have ever known an alcoholic, you are undoubtedly wondering: “Why do alcoholics keep drinking?”
Why Do Alcoholics Keep Drinking?
There are two reasons why alcoholics keep drinking. One is the effect that alcohol has on them. They get drunk, which is a pleasurable experience. So, it’s easy to understand why they do it again. However, why do alcoholics keep drinking even when they experience negative consequences? Surely, any rational person would stop drinking in light of all the damage it causes them.
Alcohol Causes Alcoholics to Forget
A study published last April suggests a a second reason why alcoholics keep drinking, even in spite of the hangovers, arrests, etc. This study theorizes that the lateral habenula is compromised in alcoholic brains. This is the region responsible for learning behaviors. For instance, normal (non-alcoholic) people drink and experience hangovers. So, their brains register these consequences and factor it into their next decision to drink. Because they keep their last hangover in mind, they drink less.
The Insanity of Alcoholism
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein
We have long thought that alcoholics are insane by Einstein’s definition of insanity. However, it may be a little more complicated. It’s not they they expect different results. It’s that they aren’t capable of thinking far enough to expect anything. That’s why alcoholics keep drinking.
Normal people can make cost-benefit calculations when it comes to drinking. They weigh the costs (hangovers, health problems, arrests) with the benefits (having fun), and make their decision.
For alcoholics, however, their brain doesn’t count the costs. So, benefits are all there is. Without help from an alcohol treatment center, they are doomed to repeat the same behavior again and again.