What Causes Alcoholism & Alcohol Abuse?

Many people who develop alcoholism wonder how they became that way. Their relatives and friends may also be curious about why that person developed an addiction while other people didn’t. Given the significant impact that alcohol abuse and addiction can have on an individual’s life, it’s important to understand the risk factors.

Some people assume that alcoholics simply don’t want to control their drinking or that they lack willpower. However, alcoholism is a disease. Even though it can’t be picked up on blood tests or brain scans, it is diagnosed through behavior. While an individual may choose to begin drinking, they don’t choose to become dependent.

There is no single cause of alcoholism. However, there are multiple risk factors which we’ll detail below. It is important to note that having a risk factor doesn’t automatically mean that a person will abuse alcohol. Many people have significant risk factors but never become alcoholics. However, having more than one risk factor increases the likelihood that a person may develop alcoholism.

Risk Factors Associated with Alcohol Use Disorder

The risk factors associated with the development of other substance use disorders also apply to alcohol use disorders. The major elements include:

Age at First Use

The younger a person is when they begin drinking, the more likely it is that they will continue drinking throughout their lifetime. Regular or continued alcohol use is linked to the development of an alcohol use disorder.

Another Mental Health Disorder

The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is complex. Individuals with alcohol use disorders are at increased risk of developing other mental problems. However, many people are diagnosed with other mental health issues before they develop a substance abuse problem. In some cases, they turn to alcohol to deal with conditions like anxiety or depression.

Family History

Having a family member with a substance use disorder puts you at greater risk of being diagnosed with a similar condition. If that person is a sibling or parent, the risk is higher than if they’re a cousin or a more distant relative. While this may have a genetic component, it can also be a result of learned behaviors or a combination of both factors. Also, there’s no single genetic factor that causes alcohol use disorder or any substance abuse disorder.

Trauma and/or Stress

People who experience traumatic events or high levels of stress are more likely to use alcohol and develop alcohol use disorders. Physical and sexual abuse, being a victim of violent crime, or losing a parent can increase the risk of alcohol abuse. Similarly, high stress levels, whether diagnosed as a mental condition or not, can lead to alcohol abuse.

Strained Family Relations

Relationship problems within a family are also significant risk factors for alcohol abuse. This especially true when these problems occur when an individual is young. Emotionally unavailable parents and poor supervision can have a long-lasting impact on a child or teenager.

Peer Pressure

This is a major risk factor among young people, but it can affect individuals of any age. Members of an individual’s peer group, online influencers, and even society at large can make it seem like alcohol consumption is a normal way to handle stress.  This can increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse.

Other Risk Factors for Alcoholism

In addition to the factors outlined above, there are several other conditions or situations that increase the likelihood of developing a disorder. For example, alcohol use disorders are more likely to occur in men than in women. Living in an environment where alcohol use and abuse are common is also a risk factor. These factors can interact. As with many other aspects of human behavior and health, nature and nurture impact individuals in ways that are not fully understood.

Knowing the risk factors for alcohol use disorders can help you to manage your own behavior. It can also help you to anticipate or understand problematic alcohol use in other people. Regardless of why a person began to abuse alcohol, they can become sober. However, they will need holistic treatment that addresses the underlying causes of their addiction. Alcoholism cannot be treated in a vacuum.

Reach Out to Asheville Recovery Center for Help

At Asheville Recovery Center in North Carolina, we offer several approaches to treatment. We take the needs of each client into consideration since we know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to addiction recovery. If you’re ready to get professional help, reach out to our team today to schedule an appointment or ask questions.

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