If somebody you know is displaying signs of alcoholism, you may be wondering how they got there – and why they turned to alcohol in the first place. Likewise, if you find yourself drinking more than usual, it can be helpful to understand why this is.
Understanding the reasons behind excessive drinking and alcohol abuse is an important step toward treatment. On this page, we are going to explore alcoholism risk factors, the dangers of drinking alcohol, and why some people turn to alcohol. We’ll also give you information on treatment for alcoholism, and how Help4Addiction can help you.
Alcohol use disorder rarely has one single cause – instead, there are usually numerous contributing factors.
Anybody can develop an addiction to alcohol or alcohol abuse problems – however, certain factors may put a person at an increased risk.
For example, social factors such as peer pressure, or genetics can lead to a greater risk of alcoholism. Read on to learn more about the main risk factors for alcohol use disorder.
A person’s environment can increase the risk of them developing an alcohol problem – as well as social and cultural factors.
Social pressure and peer pressure, for example, can contribute to the risk of binge drinking and alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcohol dependence. Underage drinking can also increase the risk of developing an alcohol problem later in life.
Likewise, a person’s upbringing can influence the risk of developing alcohol abuse problems. If you grew up in a household where alcohol abuse was common or normalised, you may have developed the belief that this behaviour is okay or expected, and go on to abuse alcohol yourself.
Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism. Children of alcoholics can become aware of their parent’s or caregiver’s drinking from an early age – and their parent’s drinking habits may influence their own drinking behaviour as an adult.
Certain psychosocial factors can be significant risk factors for alcohol abuse. Traumatic life experiences, for example, can increase the chances of you developing alcohol abuse problems or alcohol dependence.
Trauma such as sexual abuse, violence, or bereavement can affect a person’s life in many ways, leading to them feeling unpleasant emotions. This can lead to drinking to ease these feelings – however, drinking alcohol over time will only make the feelings worse.
We provide personalised support and resources for addiction recovery. Take the first step towards a brighter future today.
Genetics can be a huge factor when it comes to alcoholism. If your parents have problems with alcohol or there is a family history of addiction, you may be wondering whether this puts you at a higher risk of developing alcohol abuse problems.
The answer is yes – if you have an alcoholic parent or close family members, then you may have a genetic predisposition to AUD – and therefore the risk of developing alcoholism yourself increases.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that genes are responsible for approximately half the risk of alcohol use disorder. Variations in different genes can influence the risk factor – some of the genes that have been identified to increase the risk include ADH1B and ALDH2.
However, genetic factors alone do not determine whether you will have problems with alcohol in the future. A combination of environmental factors, genetics, and life choices are typically to blame for alcohol dependence – there is rarely just one cause.
Drinking too much alcohol over time can increase the risk of a person developing an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) involves the lack of control over drinking alcohol – this can include:
It covers a range of alcohol problems and can vary in severity – being diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe. Alcohol dependence is the most severe form of AUD, and alcohol abuse is considered a milder form of the disorder.
A person with alcohol dependence will struggle to stop drinking and crave alcohol – and will likely experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they do stop drinking or drastically lower the number of units they usually drink.
Alcohol dependence is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder and can affect a person’s whole life. If you think you or somebody you know has a problem with alcohol, see the ‘Help for Alcoholism’ section at the bottom of this page.
Alcohol can affect your physical health in numerous ways. For example, you may experience unpleasant (and sometimes even dangerous) withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking – or haven’t had a drink in a while. In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can begin a few hours after your last drink.
Alcohol can also increase the risk of developing different types of cancers, according to The National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens.
This is because alcohol is a known carcinogen. Some alcohol-related cancers include breast cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, oesophageal cancer, and head and neck cancer.
Additionally, alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical health conditions. For example, it can increase the risk of you having a heart attack or a stroke, and has been linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Alcohol can also impact your immune system, which can lead to you becoming seriously ill.
If you consume alcohol regularly and in excessive amounts, you are affecting your health. In the short term, you may also be at risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
There are many reasons why a person may drink alcohol in excessive amounts or develop an alcohol problem such as binge drinking or alcohol abuse.
Some reasons that a person may turn to alcohol include boredom, peer pressure, society, or blocking out painful memories or negative emotions. Read on to explore the reasons people turn to alcohol in more detail.
Stress is a key reason why many people turn to alcohol. While not every person experiencing stress turns to alcohol, some people find that alcohol temporarily relieves negative feelings and symptoms of stress.
Different types of stress can affect alcohol consumption, whether it be cumulative life stressors, early life stressors, or everyday stress.
Whether it be work-related stress, financial stress, or stress caused by bereavement or relationship problems, it’s important that you avoid drinking alcohol to relieve the unpleasant feelings associated with stress.
Many people drink alcohol on a Friday or weekend to wind down after a long, stressful week at work. If you do this, be mindful when drinking, and stick within the NHS guidelines (14 units per week spread over three or more days).
Stress can also be a risk factor for physical health problems and mental disorders/ psychological health problems. Instead of turning to alcohol to relieve stress, consider some healthier alternatives.
Speak to your GP about stress management, or learn some meditation techniques. Drinking alcohol doesn’t get rid of stress – it simply masks it for some time, and can worsen it.
Alcohol is habit-forming and can result in addiction – which can lead to further stress as well as numerous other problems.
Some other ways to temporarily relieve stress include taking a relaxing bath, reading a good book, exercising, or taking a nap. These can help with day-to-day stress, whereas for prolonged stress, you may benefit more from speaking to a counsellor or therapist.
Certain psychological factors can contribute to the risk of developing alcohol problems. There are many links between mental health disorders and alcohol – people with mental health conditions may drink to relieve the negative symptoms associated with mental illness, but alcohol can worsen existing mental health conditions and even lead to the development of mental health problems.
Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder (BPD), binge eating disorders and other mental health conditions can increase the risk of developing alcoholism.
For example, people with symptoms of depression may turn to alcohol to numb the negative feelings, or to feel better for a short period of time.
In fact, women are two times more likely to drink alcohol excessively if they have experienced depression in the past. Having a mental health condition and alcohol use disorder is known as a dual diagnosis.
If you have a dual diagnosis, it’s important that you receive treatment tailored to this – treatment that includes mental health support.
There is help out there for you if you think you have an alcohol problem. At Help4Addiction, we can find you the right addiction treatment program for you and your circumstances, whether it be in the form of inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment.
Professional treatment is always recommended for those with severe alcohol dependence – usually at an inpatient clinic with medical detox. In some cases, you may benefit from using our at-home detox kit. However, be sure to check the eligibility requirements as detoxing at home isn’t for everyone.
Our experts at Help4Addiction can guide you through the process – the only requirement is your desire to stop drinking. As well as alcohol addiction treatment, we can help with other substance use disorders.
Substance abuse (e.g, cocaine addiction) can be debilitating and dangerous, so it’s imperative you receive the right drug addiction treatment.
Alcoholism treatment begins with a detox. This involves cleansing your body of alcohol. During this stage, you may experience withdrawal symptoms – however, they should peak within a week.
Detoxification aims at dealing with the physical aspect of addiction and doesn’t deal with the social, psychological, or behavioural aspects of addiction.
This is what addiction therapy focuses on. Different clinics will have different therapy options available – some forms of therapy that you may be offered in rehab include:
During therapy, you may learn effective coping strategies. You may also learn more about yourself and your addiction – for example, your triggers or root causes of your addiction.
Some people wish to continue receiving support after they have completed rehab. Secondary treatment, also known as aftercare, can include group therapy or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Secondary treatment can help to ease the transition from alcohol rehab back to your everyday life. Some people also wish to attend recovery cafes and speak with other people in similar situations.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you, and to start your recovery journey.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
Receive a callback, we’re ready to help you get on the road to recovery.
Don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re here to provide the support you deserve, anytime, day or night.