What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic brain disorder characterized by compulsive drinking despite adverse consequences like legal trouble, relationship issues, or poor health outcomes associated with heavy drinking over time.1

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse estimates that over 17 million people in the US, or 7.2% of the adult population, struggle with some form of alcohol abuse. The profile of an individual with AUD may vary in race, education level, employment, and other factors. Understanding what causes alcoholism is critical to helping those who suffer from it find help and support in their recovery journey.2

In this article, we’ll explore the causes of alcoholism, including both genetic and environmental factors. We will also look at the warning signs of AUD and how to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse. Finally, we’ll discuss long-term recovery options for those in recovery from alcohol addiction.1

What Are the Causes of Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a chronic and progressive disease that is characterized by the excessive consumption of alcohol and the inability to control or stop drinking.1

Alcoholism can have severe and adverse effects on an individual’s physical, mental, and social well-being, as well as on the well-being of their loved ones. Alcoholism causes various health problems, such as liver disease, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, and cancer. It can also contribute to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide.1

It’s important to note that alcoholism is not a choice, it’s a disease that develops over time, and it is influenced by a combination of various alcoholism risk factors. There are several components that can contribute to the development of alcoholism, including:1

  • Genetics is one of the more significant alcoholism risk factors. Studies have shown that individuals with a family history of alcoholism may be at a higher risk for developing the disorder.3
  • Psychological factors, such as stress, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, may also contribute to the development of alcoholism.4
  • Personality traits, such as impulsivity and risk-taking behavior, can also be significant alcoholism risk factors. Individuals with these traits may be more likely to engage in excessive drinking and are at a higher risk of developing an addiction.5
  • Family history can also be a contributing cause of alcoholism. Children of alcoholics may be at a higher risk of developing the disorder due to environmental and upbringing factors.4
  • Age is also a factor that can contribute to the development of alcoholism. The risk of developing the disorder increases as an individual ages, and how early someone starts drinking plays a significant role in the disease’s progression at a later age.6

Understanding the causes of alcoholism is essential in order to develop effective treatment and prevention strategies. It’s also important to understand that alcoholism is a chronic disease, which means that it requires professional help for treatment and recovery. With the right support and treatment, individuals can achieve and maintain long-term recovery from AUD.1

How do Psychological Factors Cause Alcoholism?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are several psychological factors that may contribute to the development of alcoholism. One of the leading psychological causes of alcoholism is stress. Stressful life events can cause individuals to feel overwhelmed, anxious and depressed, and they may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication to cope with these difficult emotions. This may lead to excessive drinking and the development of addiction.4

Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety also present significant alcoholism risk factors. The symptoms of these conditions can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness, and individuals may seek relief by drinking alcohol. This can lead to excessive drinking, which may further harm their mental health condition and make it harder to break the cycle.4

Impulsivity and sensation-seeking behavior can also play a significant role in the development of alcoholism. Individuals with these traits may be more likely to engage in excessive drinking and are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. They may also be less likely to conform to social norms, making it harder for them to control their drinking behavior.4

Finally, cognitive factors, such as beliefs about the effects of alcohol, can also be considered causes of alcoholism. Positive beliefs about the impact of alcohol, such as drinking, will make them feel more relaxed or confident, which may lead to excessive drinking. On the other hand, negative beliefs, such as drinking will lead to addiction, may discourage the behavior.4

How do Genetic Factors Contribute to Alcoholism?

Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of alcoholism, as research has shown that individuals with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Additionally, certain genetic variations are believed to be alcoholism risk factors.3

One example is the role of genes involved in the regulation of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that play a role in the reward system. Dopamine is released in response to pleasurable experiences, such as drinking alcohol, and it can help to create a positive feedback loop that can lead to addiction. Genetic variations in genes involved in dopamine regulation may cause an individual to have a greater sensitivity to the rewarding effects of alcohol, which can increase their risk of developing alcoholism.3

Other genes have been identified as potential alcoholism risk factors. For example, variations in genes that control the levels of enzymes that metabolize alcohol can affect how quickly alcohol is broken down and processed in the body. This can influence the amount of alcohol that enters the bloodstream and the severity of the effects of alcohol on the brain and body.3

However, studies suggest that genetic causes of alcoholism alone cannot fully explain the development of the disease, and a combination of genetic, environmental, and cultural factors contribute to the disorder.3

Is a Family History of Drinking a Cause of Alcoholism

A family history of drinking is a significant factor in the development of alcoholism. Several studies have shown that individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) are at a higher risk for developing the disorder themselves. This risk is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.4

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported to the US Congress in 2000 that children with a family history of alcoholism exhibit some differences compared to those with no recorded history of alcoholism. These alcoholism risk factors include a higher chance of having mental and behavioral disorders and having different physical responses to alcohol that can increase the risk of developing alcoholism, such as being less sensitive to the effects of alcohol or more responsive to alcohol’s ability to reduce anxiety.7

Adolescent alcohol use tends to be influenced by similar factors as other forms of problem behavior among adolescents, such as delinquent behavior and risky sexual behavior. In addition to nonadaptive coping strategies, parental substance use, lack of parental support, poor academic performance, and poor behavioral control, other alcoholism risk factors include high life stress, poor social status, and paternal alcoholism.4

Is Age a Risk Factor for Alcoholism

Studies have found that there is a correlation between age and alcoholism, with the risk of developing alcoholism being highest in young adulthood and increasing as people age. In young adulthood, the highest rates of alcohol use disorder typically occur in individuals in their late teens and early twenties. This may be due to a combination of risk factors such as increased availability of alcohol, greater exposure to peer pressure, and a lack of life experience and coping mechanisms.8

However, alcoholism is also a disorder that can develop later in life. As people age, they may become more vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol, such as liver damage and an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Additionally, older adults may be more likely to experience the negative consequences that alcohol causes, such as social isolation and financial problems.8

It’s also important to note that alcoholism can affect people of all ages and that the course of the disorder can be different for different individuals. Some people may develop AUD at a young age and continue to struggle with the disorder throughout their lives, while others may not develop the disorder until later in life.8

How Does Career Factor in With Other Causes of Alcoholism?

Research has shown that specific industries, such as mining, construction, and arts and entertainment, have higher rates of past-month alcohol use and may have a higher risk of alcoholism. These industries, along with others such as hospitality, wholesale trade, and utilities, have been identified as having high-stress work environments, which could be a contributing factor to higher rates of alcohol use.9

One of the causes of alcoholism in these industries may be related to the culture and social norms within these fields. In some cases, heavy drinking may be seen as a way to cope with the physical and emotional demands of the job. Additionally, in some industries, alcohol may be readily available and even encouraged in social settings, leading to increased alcohol use.9

Another alcoholism risk factor in these industries could be related to the nature of the work itself. For example, miners and construction workers may have physically demanding jobs that lead to injuries, chronic pain, and other physical conditions that may lead to alcohol use as a way to cope with the pain. Similarly, artists and entertainers may have highly demanding schedules and a lot of stress associated with their work, leading to increased alcohol use as a way to cope with stress.9

It’s also important to note that alcoholism is a complex disorder with multiple causes and risk factors, and not everyone who works in these industries will develop the disorder. However, individuals who work in these fields should be aware of the potential risks associated with alcohol use and seek help if they think they may have a problem.9

Are Religious Beliefs Among Identified Alcoholism Causes? 

Research has shown that there may be a correlation between religion and alcoholism, although the relationship between the two is complex and can vary depending on a number of factors. Still, environmental causes of alcoholism, such as the cultural and social environment in which an individual lives, should be taken into consideration when assessing the risk of alcoholism.10

One of the causes of alcoholism that has been linked to religion is the social and cultural environment in which the individual lives. In some religious communities, the use of alcohol may be discouraged or even prohibited, leading to a lower risk of alcoholism. In contrast, in other religious communities, alcohol use may be more accepted and encouraged, leading to a higher risk of alcoholism.10

Additionally, the religious beliefs and practices of an individual may also play a role in the development of alcoholism. For example, individuals with strong religious beliefs and a sense of spirituality may be less likely to develop alcoholism, as they may have a greater sense of purpose and a more positive outlook on life. On the other hand, individuals who do not have a solid religious faith may be more likely to develop alcoholism, as they may lack a sense of purpose and a sense of meaning in their lives.10

How to Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction in Nevada?

Treatment for alcoholism typically begins with an assessment of the individual’s physical and mental health, as well as their drinking habits and alcoholism risk factors. This assessment is usually conducted by a healthcare professional, such as a physician or a therapist, and may include a physical examination, laboratory tests, and a detailed interview.11

The most common form of treatment for alcoholism is behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is designed to help individuals understand the underlying causes of alcoholism and to develop new coping mechanisms to deal with stress and other triggers. Behavioral treatment can include individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy.11

One of the best resources for treatment is the American Addiction Centers (AAC), which offers a wide range of treatment options and resources for individuals struggling with alcoholism. AAC provides inpatient and outpatient care, as well as detox and aftercare services. They also offer specialized programs for specific populations, such as veterans and young adults, as well as different payment methods and sliding scale fees.

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