Over the years, researchers have looked into what causes alcoholism. Many cases of alcoholism are more complicated than they appear on the surface. Several factors can increase a person’s risk of abusing alcohol. These ‘risk factors’ differ from person to person and can increase the chance of the development of alcoholism. These can be environmental, psychological, or biological. While these risk factors don’t guarantee a person will develop alcoholism, they can easily lead to alcoholism.
So, what causes alcoholism? This is a complicated topic that involves many different biological and social factors. It’s important to be aware of these factors for yourself and your loved ones. After looking at what causes alcoholism, it’s necessary to look at how you can overcome it. No matter what the cause of alcoholism in your life may be, getting quality help from a rehab center like Harmony Place may be the key to sobriety and a better life.
What is Alcoholism?
Before breaking down what causes alcoholism, it’s crucial to understand the disorder itself. Enjoying a drink or two occasionally is completely normal in our society. However, excessive drinking on a frequent basis or drinking in order to function can be a sign of a much bigger problem.
Alcoholism (or alcohol use disorder) occurs when a person cannot control their drinking. They may drink excessively on a frequent basis along with binge drinking. A person who is dealing with alcoholism may continue to drink regardless of the negative effects brought on by constant drinking. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of alcoholism.
1. Early Age Drinking
The earlier a person begins to drink alcohol, the higher chance they have of becoming dependent on it. Drinking as early as 15 years old can quickly lead to dependence at such a young age. Dependence occurs when a person relies on alcohol to function (or to “feel okay”). Drinking early on can have many problematic effects on a person’s life later on. Binge drinking or excessive drinking even in your 20’s can open the door for alcoholism in the later years of their life.
No matter how old a person is when they begin drinking, alcoholism is always in the cards if they avoid the signs. Parents are encouraged to teach their kids about the dangers of heavy drinking early on. Many people are not taught to drink responsibly and within reason. What may begin as simple weekend drinking can become a problem later on.
2. Family History of Alcoholism
Family history can be a huge factor for what causes alcoholism. With substance use in general, growing up with a parent or relative who dealt with alcoholism can play a huge role in a person’s life. Several genes indicate a pattern in some families when it comes to developing alcoholism over the years. This risk is biological, genetic, and environmental as well. Alcoholism doesn’t have to run in a person’s family for them to develop an alcohol disorder. Having a parent that frequently drinks can be the first step towards falling into alcoholism.
3. High Stress
Stress is one of the factors that many people think of when figuring out what causes alcoholism. Stress at work, home, or school can push someone to start drinking. It is often seen as an easy way to relieve stress and tension. High-stress careers like nurses, lawyers, construction workers, and other occupations may lead to excessive drinking.
It can be hard to handle stress. Some people may believe that alcohol is a viable option for stress relief. Unfortunately, alcohol doesn’t ‘cure’ stress and typically ends up making the situation worse in the long-run. Stress can also be the downfall for those recovering from alcoholism; they may end up relapsing due to stress. Before, during, and after treatment, it is key to find healthy ways of dealing with stress without reaching for a bottle.
4. Dealing with Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders can be stressful, painful, and debilitating throughout a person’s day-to-day life. Whether it’s schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These crippling disorders can be what causes alcoholism for some. It is not uncommon for those dealing with mental health disorders to turn to alcohol to ‘self-medicate’ or ease the pain. A person may turn to alcohol every time their symptoms begin to act up.
Those who deal with mental disorders may also be hesitant to reach out for help. Alcohol may seem like an easier option for them instead of being judged by others. In reality, this is not the case and alcohol only makes the situation worse. Many people who deal with a mental disorder also struggle with alcoholism. This combination is what’s known as a co-occurring disorder (dealing with a mental disorder and an addiction). These cases require full, comprehensive care by medical professionals.
5. Peer Pressure or Trying to Impress Friends
While it may seem like a mundane reason, peer pressure can be what causes alcoholism in high school and college students. In this age group, alcohol is sometimes glamorized and encouraged. Some young adults in high school and college may feel the need to drink to be ‘cool’ or feel accepted. Drinking is a common activity for many young adults, both underage and of drinking age (ages 18-34). It’s the frequency of the drinking that can lead to alcoholism. Peer pressure can occur in any age group, especially since alcohol is glorified and widely accepted among many cultures.
6. Mixing Alcohol with Medication
Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol has become a common and dangerous trend. Mixing medication and alcohol can create a powerful and potent effect. People may become addicted to this rewarding experience and can end up becoming dependent on it. What many people don’t realize is how dangerous and even deadly this combination can be. Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can lead to:
- Increased blood pressure
- Heart problems and damage
- Behavioral, emotional, and mental changes
Unfortunately, mixing alcohol and medication can sometimes lead to fatal consequences. This increases the chance of overdose when both drugs are combined. Under no circumstances should a person ever mix their medication with alcohol (or other drugs). If you are worried about a possible overdose or a serious problem, call 9-1-1 immediately to get help.
Childhood trauma, domestic, and sexual abuse can all be factors that contribute to alcoholism. Those who experience trauma or are mentally scarred by an event have a much higher chance of abusing alcoholism. Over time, a person may turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the feelings of a traumatic event. Talking to a professional counselor or therapist is the best way to tackle traumatic events in the past.
During addiction recovery, a person can pinpoint past traumas that may have contributed to their alcoholism. It’s important to understand and confront these feelings before they have long-term effects.
8. Frequent and Constant Drinking Over Time
When someone begins to drink large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time, they may end up developing alcoholism. What tends to happen is a person may build up a tolerance to alcohol. Tolerance occurs when a person needs more and more of a drug to feel its effects. Simply drinking too much overtime can be what causes alcoholism for some people. This point drives back to the factor of drinking when you are young and in the early stages of adulthood. It’s important to keep control of your drinking no matter what age you are.
9. Attempts to Self-Medicate/Cope with Stress
Stressful and even painful situations like the death of a loved one or losing your job can be extremely hard to deal with. Grief, pain, and sadness can all be catalysts for drug use. Some people may feel so lost that the only way to cope is to turn to alcohol. Alcohol use is seen as a coping technique for some but many don’t realize the negative impact alcohol can have.
What may begin as a way to self-medicate or to cope with pain or grief can quickly become a matter of alcoholism. Some may be too afraid to talk about their feelings or confront these traumas and thus turn to alcohol or drugs. This attempt to self-medicate and cope can end up being what causes alcoholism in the end. Don’t be afraid to speak out about your feelings with close friends, family, or professionals.
10. No Family Supervision
Not having supervision from a parent or having a dysfunctional family structure can be what causes alcoholism in people at a young age. A lack of support or guidance may lead to alcohol use which can evolve into alcoholism. Neglect and lack of support can also lead to abandonment problems as well. While this may not be as prominent as the other causes, this can be a possible cause of alcoholism in some people.
Getting Alcoholism Treatment with Harmony Place
No matter what causes alcoholism, it is important to reach out for help. As time goes on, alcoholism can start to create numerous problems for your mind, body, and overall life. Don’t wait until things spiral out of control, reach out for help today. Harmony Place in Los Angeles offers quality detox, residential, and outpatient services for you and your loved ones. Take the first step, contact us today to learn more about our alcoholism treatment and our facility.