It’s a disease of brain function and requires medical and psychological treatments to control it. Alcoholism, referred to as alcohol use disorder, occurs when someone drinks so much that their body eventually becomes why do people become alcoholics dependent on or addicted to alcohol. In addition, risk factors are cumulative, such that having more than one risk factor significantly increases the probability that one may develop a specific disease or disorder.

causes of alcoholism

Some also disagree with the notion of admitting powerlessness to God or a higher power and completely ceding control, and the belief that addiction is a disease, a point vigorously debated in the clinical and scientific communities. A health care provider might ask the following questions to assess a person’s symptoms. The sooner you recognize there may be a problem and talk to your healthcare provider, the better your recovery chances. By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website.

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To prevent alcoholism from beginning at an early age, parents should encourage alcohol prevention at this time. They need to teach their children about the dangers of heavy drinking at a young age so they can avoid developing bad habits in the future. Using alcohol during adolescence (from preteens to mid-20s) may affect brain development, making it more likely that they will be diagnosed with AUD later in life. However, most people with AUD—no matter their age or the severity of their alcohol problems—can benefit from treatment with behavioral health therapies, medications, or both.

AA is not for everyone and there are plenty of different treatment options, but it can be successful and meaningful for those who choose it. Some people prefer to try cutting back or quitting on their own before committing time and money to rehab. And there are a few approaches that can identify and combat drinking at an early stage. People can focus on education and support, such as through Alcoholics Anonymous, or take on a sobriety challenge.


In the mid-20th century, the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin resulted in a shift from official denial that any significant alcohol problem existed in the Soviet Union to an outcry that alcoholism involved 40 percent of adult males. In short, there is a strong subjective element in statistics of alcoholism. In addition, comparative data invariably fail to take account of changes in diagnostic policies and whether illicit, untaxed alcoholic beverages are included in estimates of national consumption. Cognitive behavioral therapy is another path, available in person or online. Non-abstinence-based recovery models—such as Moderation Management—advocate for reducing one’s alcohol consumption rather than abstaining completely. Finally, epidemiologists need a definition of alcoholism that enables them to identify alcoholics within a population that may not be available for individual examination.

Members of certain sub-cultures are more likely to engage in alcohol abuse, which in many cases is actively encouraged by other members and seen as a method of gaining acceptance. Many studies have concluded that no single factor has as much impact on whether or not someone becomes an alcoholic as that person’s genes. Biological children of alcoholics are substantially more likely to become alcoholics, whether they are raised by alcoholics or non-alcoholics. Similarly, non-biological children of alcoholics who are raised by alcoholics are less likely to become alcoholics than biological children who are raised by alcoholics. The holidays can be a difficult time to stay on track with your drinking, but these five strategies can help you achieve your goal and make the most of the holiday season. There are many organized programs that provide the support of peers, usually through frequent meetings.

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Recent studies are showing more and more that genes have an impact on how an individual thinks and acts, and this includes addiction and alcoholism. Roughly speaking, if someone had an alcoholism gene, then their risk for developing an addiction would go up tremendously. However, genes cannot and must not be considered to be an excuse for excessive drinking. The other half of the reasons for alcoholism come from the person, their history, and their psychology.

  • The AUDIT score demonstrated a linear relationship with mortality in a meta-analysis of 7 studies on 309,991 persons.
  • Worsening symptoms can lead a person to drink even more, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Evaluation of patients with suspected AUDs should involve a comprehensive assessment of their alcohol consumption habits.
  • To learn more about alcohol treatment options and search for quality care near you, please visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.
  • Alcoholism has been known by a variety of terms, including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

A BAC from 0.25% to 0.40% causes stupor, unconsciousness, anterograde amnesia, vomiting (death may occur due to inhalation of vomit while unconscious) and respiratory depression (potentially life-threatening). A BAC from 0.35% to 0.80% causes a coma (unconsciousness), life-threatening respiratory depression and possibly fatal alcohol poisoning. With all alcoholic beverages, drinking while driving, operating an aircraft or heavy machinery increases the risk of an accident; many countries have penalties for drunk driving. Any number of traumatic experiences can place a person at risk for developing an alcohol disorder.

These changes can compromise brain function and drive the transition from controlled, occasional use to chronic misuse, which can be difficult to control. The changes can endure long after a person stops consuming alcohol, and can contribute to relapse in drinking. Excluding genetics, an individual’s family life plays a significant role in the likelihood that they develop alcoholism. People who grow up in a family where heavy drinking is practiced, or even encouraged, are more likely to develop alcoholism. In these families, heavy drinking is normalized and glamorized; it becomes socially acceptable, expected, and potentially desirable. Loved ones are an integral part of the addiction recovery process, but they need to balance their own needs in addition to providing support.

  • People can learn mindfulness; rather than trying to soothe uncomfortable feelings with alcohol, mindfulness encourages techniques such as breathing, visualization, and meditation.
  • And by lowering antioxidant levels in the skin, alcohol can make our skin even more susceptible to damage from its greatest enemy — the sun’s UV rays.
  • On a global scale, AUDs impact a significant number of people, with an estimated 240 million individuals being affected worldwide, notably in regions such as Europe and the Americas.
  • Given the power of alcohol on the brain, people who drink heavily may come to rely on it to regulate their mood.
  • There are some personality types that can be a bad combination of drinking and alcohol.
  • The term alcoholism, however, appeared first in the classical essay “Alcoholismus Chronicus” (1849) by the Swedish physician Magnus Huss.

For example, if a person were raised in a family that read daily, then they would be more likely to read a great deal as well. This is also true for drinking as parents constitute the first role model for their child. If a person grew up in a family of alcoholics, that is what causes alcohol addiction in some.