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AlcoholScience, Policy and Public Health$
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Peter Boyle, Paolo Boffetta, Albert B. Lowenfels, Harry Burns, Otis Brawley, Witold Zatonski, and Jürgen Rehm

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199655786

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199655786.001.0001

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Pathophysiology of alcohol addiction

Pathophysiology of alcohol addiction

Chapter:
(p.84) Chapter 10 Pathophysiology of alcohol addiction
Source:
Alcohol
Author(s):

Wolfgang H. Sommer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199655786.003.0010

This chapter reviews major findings and concepts in the field of biological alcoholism research. It addresses four main points which aim to inform the discussion on alcohol policy and health issues in this book. First, alcohol may be part of our nature, in the sense that alcohol liking and seeking may have been under positive selection during our evolutionary history, which may make alcohol distinctive from other drugs of abuse. Second, individuals vary widely in their innate responses to alcohol; however, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these differences are likely not the ones causal to addiction. Third, alcohol addiction is not defined by physical dependence, i.e., the emergence of withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of drinking, but rather by its chronic relapsing course, where relapse is triggered by powerful urges or cravings that cause the loss of behavioural control. Finally, although substantial knowledge on the neurobiology of alcohol addiction has been accumulated, there is little progress so far in the pharmacotherapy for this disorder; part of the reason for this is that existing pathophysiological concepts are not consequently applied to medication development.

Keywords:   alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol consumption, relapse, positive selection, pharmacotherapy, alcoholism research

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