Once you hit 21 years old in the U.S., the world of alcohol is at your fingertips. You don’t have to look hard to find a place that serves alcohol. Beer, wine and liquor/spirits are big money makers for grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and other establishments.
Unlike harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, alcohol addiction takes longer to unfold, and it often sneaks up on the drinker. And since alcohol is a legal substance, there’s normally very little stigma or few repercussions for drinking casually out in the open.
In the short term, alcohol can impair memory and vision and reduce coordination, but prolonged drinking can lead to a dependence on the substance. This means the person will feel strong withdrawal symptoms if they don’t get their next drink within 8 to 24 hours after the last one, depending on how strong their addiction is.
Alcoholism permeates all races, genders and socioeconomic classes in the United States. And, as you might expect, it impacts those younger than 21, as well.
Here are some of the most prominent risk factors for predicting who might be affected by alcoholism:
- Genetics – a family history of alcohol abuse or addiction
- Upbringing – if you grew up around family members who drank heavily and didn’t discourage your alcohol use
- Social Environment – surrounded by friends and/or coworkers who drink often; living close to several bars
- Existing Mental Health Issues – making you turn to alcohol to try to manage the symptoms of mental illness