From a Chinese medicine perspective, any form of addiction stems from an imbalance in the body’s elements. An individual with a constitution predisposed to developing addiction will self-medicate through substance abuse, in order to overcome the physical and emotional cravings arising from this imbalance.
Individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse typically have an imbalance predominantly in their liver energy. Within the spectrum of liver energy imbalance, their personality and behaviour are different from one another, depending on the characteristics of co-existing pathological and emotional factors. For example, those presenting with a pattern of ‘stagnation of liver qi with fire’ typically feel tense and are prone to angry outbursts. Alcohol has a warm energy, hence can release nervous tension and produce a temporary sense of relaxation for these people. However, the warm property in alcohol will exacerbate the excess fire pathology in these individuals, causing a self-perpetuating worsening of their imbalance.
On the other hand, individuals presenting with a pattern of ‘liver qi constraint’ are depressed and use alcohol to help in lifting their mood. Alcohol tends to produce dampness within the body. The impact of excessive dampness in the body system is a compromised digestion and a sluggish energy flow. The alcohol use of these individuals will increase over time as they become more and more constrained and depressed in their physical and emotional states.