Causes of Alcoholism
In the US, approximately 15,000,000 people are reportedly chronic abusers of alcohol or have developed a dependency. Wisconsin, the state that has the country’s heaviest drinkers also reports the highest number of people who struggle with alcohol abuse or dependency. Although identifying an exact cause of alcoholism is difficult, there are several identifiable behaviors and risk factors that precede and contribute to the condition. Knowing the indicators of emerging alcoholism and taking action to address a drinking problem early can help people who abuse alcohol avoid serious health consequences and a long-term struggle with alcohol.
People who abuse alcohol do so for various reasons, and alcoholism is generally not a condition that appears overnight, though a person may have a dramatic response to alcohol immediately after initial consumption. Researchers and healthcare professionals have identified a few factors they believe are contributors to the development of alcoholism and a person’s overall response to alcohol abuse:
- Psychological health
- Other family members who abuse alcohol
Researchers have also identified a number of behavioral, circumstantial, and environmental factors that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing alcoholism. These factors are commonly observed among people who develop an alcohol addiction. While the existence of the factors do not necessarily cause alcoholism, they may affect a person’s general attitude and, in some cases, his or her body’s reaction towards alcohol abuse, making him or her more inclined to drink excessively. Common risk factors of alcoholism are:
- Depression or Anxiety: Some people who have difficulty managing depression, anxiety, and mood disorders resort to substance abuse as an ineffective, unhealthy means of attempting to mask or alleviate their symptoms.
- Family History and Social Customs: People who have parents or other family members who abuse alcohol may be at greater risk for developing an alcohol problem themselves; this is also true of people whose close friends or significant others abuse alcohol.
- Media Influence: People who are heavily influenced by a popular culture that encourages alcohol consumption may be at a higher risk of developing an alcohol addiction.
- Long-Term Habit of Drinking to Excess: Consistently drinking to intoxication can cause the body to become dependent on alcohol.
- Age at Which Drinking Begins: Individuals who start drinking in their youth may have a higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol.
People who find that they are consuming large amounts of alcohol should evaluate their reasons for drinking and attempt to realistically consider the impact alcohol is having on his or her life, relationships, and health. Individuals who find themselves struggling to cut down on alcohol consumption or quit altogether should speak to a healthcare professional or substance abuse counselor. Family members and friends of people who struggle with alcohol abuse should speak to the individual about their alcohol consumption and/or offer to be supportive of them seeking professional help. Most people who become addicted to alcohol never begin drinking with the intent of developing a dependency. Recognizing the signs of alcoholism can be difficult, especially for the drinker. However, with education and the vigilance of friends, loved ones, and even people in the work environment, it is possible to reverse the behaviors that contribute to alcoholism and to cease alcohol abuse.