In a world and culture where drinking tends to be the norm, it can be hard to see or understand when social or moderate drinking has turned into a problem. Often times, the lines are blurred for people who have dangerously moved from drinking in moderation into habit because society has conditioned us that getting intoxicated is how we celebrate, let loose and bond with others.
It’s all in good fun until alcohol takes control of your life. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18+ had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2012.”
Unfortunately, most people completely miss the traditional signs of alcoholism and once they recognize they have a problem, move into denial as they continue to drink until the problem becomes more evident.
Most people who have realized they have a problem, first want to know how to know if they are alcoholic, and then they ask, “Why am I an alcoholic?” This article will discuss what causes alcoholism and how alcohol becomes addictive in an effort to break down one of the most widespread addictions we face today.
What Causes Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a result of a developed dependence on alcohol, otherwise known as an addiction to alcohol. Problem drinking can be attributed to multiple causes such as social, physiological, psychological, and biological factors. The underlying factors typically affect each person in different ways, and there has yet to be research or evidence to prove one singular cause.
Drinking usually starts out as a social activity for most; however, it moves into a bad habit relatively quickly depending on how strong the influence of friends, family and society are to a person. Social and environmental influences increase the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic. Factors such as availability of alcohol, peer pressure, social class, and any kind of abuse play a role in the development of alcohol dependence.
Alcohol abuse can be triggered by psychological behaviors such as approval seeking, self-worth issues or impulsiveness. Often people drink as a coping strategy to manage emotions or “self-medicate.” People who suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety or depression are much more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder as well. In an article publish by HelpGuide.org, it states, “37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness,” further demonstrating how psychological factors play a huge role in the development of alcoholism.
Research has uncovered that there is a genetic link to alcoholism and studies are underway to identify exactly which genes increase a person’s risk of becoming an alcoholic in order to develop new ways to offer treatment. If you grow up with a parent who is an alcoholic, this factor alone increases your chances of becoming one by four times according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
How Does Alcohol Become Addictive?
Most people who fall into alcoholism don’t realize why alcohol is so addictive. There is no one cause, but rather a combination of precursors that lead to this addiction.
Drinking creates a chemical “high” inside the brain and body, which most people begin to crave. The feelings associated with drinking can become addictive, not to mention the physiological exchanges that begin to happen inside the brain’s reward center when consuming alcohol.
People begin to drink more frequently looking for these feelings, and this produces a need for more alcohol to feed a higher tolerance. Once someone starts to drink excessively, not only does the problem begin to perpetuate itself, but it also creates a physical dependence on alcohol inside the body making it uncomfortable to be without it, which can cause people to drink just to avoid feeling withdrawal symptoms.
Finding Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
Understanding what makes someone addicted to alcohol can often be the first step in helping a person seek treatment. Depending on how bad their alcohol abuse has been or if medically assisted alcohol detox will be needed for withdrawal symptoms, entering into a treatment center may be a viable option. Professional medical staff can assist in the painful process of withdrawal, making the transition into sobriety less daunting.
Alcohol abuse treatment programs teach people how to move into an alcohol-free lifestyle while teaching them healthy coping strategies. They also simultaneously help to treat for any co-occurring mental health issues.
Contact us at Palmer Lake Recovery if you’re ready to get on the path to recovery and end your addiction to alcohol today.
Written by: Carly Benson
As an avid traveler, yogi, and confessed self-help junkie, Carly writes about her adventures in life and sobriety onMiraclesAreBrewing.com where she offers inspirational concepts for enlightenment.
Alcohol Use Disorder, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, <https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders>
Alcohol Use Disorder, Psychology Today, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/alcohol-use-disorder-abusedependence>, November 2016
Substance Abuse and Mental Health, HelpGuide.org, <http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/substance-abuse-and-mental-health.htm>, December 2016
Alcohol Use In Families, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, <http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-Of-Alcoholics-017.aspx>, December 2011