Causes of Alcoholism

No one is sure what causes alcoholism although social, psychological and genetic factors can play a role in the cause of alcoholism.

No one is sure what causes alcoholism although social, psychological and genetic factors can play a role in the cause of alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a result of a dependence on or an addiction to alcohol. The reason why one person develops alcoholism and another doesn't has been the subject of much study. Twice as many men are alcoholics. And 10-23% of alcohol-consuming individuals are considered alcoholics. (read about: alcoholism statistics)

What Causes Alcoholism?

Researchers have suggested a variety of possibilities for the cause of alcoholism:

  • social factors: such as the influence of family, peers, and society, and the availability of alcohol
  • psychological factors: such as elevated levels of stress, inadequate coping mechanisms, and reinforcement of alcohol use from other drinkers can contribute to alcoholism.
  • biological (genetic) susceptibility: certain genetic factors may cause a person to be vulnerable to alcoholism or other addiction. If you have an imbalance of brain chemicals, you may be more predisposed to alcoholism.
  • learned behavior
  • youthful social practices

Although this research has produced no conclusive evidence, there does appear to be a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. According to the National Council on Alcoholism, a child of an alcoholic runs four times the risk of becoming an alcoholic than does a child of non-alcoholic parents.

Some alcoholics begin drinking to the point of intoxication from their first drink. For others, the disease is progressive, beginning with acceptable social drinking, and later developing into alcohol abuse. Although family members and friends can take practical steps to help an alcoholic, the key to recovery is getting them to admit that they have a drinking problem.

Sources:

  • Annals of General Hospital Psychiatry 2003, 2(Suppl 1):S37
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

 

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Last Updated: 20 June 2016

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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