Alcohol Abuse: Causes and Risk Factors

Alcohol abuse can be caused by a myriad of factors. According to numerous studies, genetics and family history are the leading factors in the development of alcohol abuse problems.

Regardless of the cause having an alcohol dependence is a serious issue that poses potential health risks. Understanding the major risk factors and underlying causes is important as it will allow you to identify whether you or your loved one is at risk, and take the appropriate measures.


Risk Factors

Below are some of the prominent risk factors for alcohol dependence. These things can make it more likely for someone to become dependent on alcohol.

Genetics

Studies indicate that individuals with a family history of alcoholism are 50% more likely than those who have no family history of alcoholism to also have problems with alcohol abuse. However, unlike most genetic diseases , alcohol dependence cannot be traced to a single gene mutation.

Though information on the relationship between genetics and alcohol dependence is still quite vague, genetics alone will not determine whether you’re going to become an alcoholic.

Social Factors

Unlike other forms of drugs, drinking is widely accepted, and often seen as a popular social pastime. Drinking, especially in a social gathering is seen as a way to relax, bond, relieve stress, and celebrate.

Over time, you might get the urge to drink more regularly both with friends and alone, this can ultimately result in a person becoming alcohol dependent. 

Psychological Factors

For people suffering from a psychological condition or mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, they may find themselves turning to drinking to help with the symptoms. Often these people are unaware that they are suffering from a psychological issue and haven’t sought treatment, but instead used alcohol to alleviate their symptoms. 

Though alcohol may reduce the anxiety or stress temporarily, it unfortunately, worsens the conditions over time. This then leads to increased dependency and the feeling that you can’t function without alcohol.

Familial Factors

Beyond the genetic factors your family can, to a large extent, influence your perception of alcohol. Your upbringing and family life from a young age can affect your life choices and the way you behave as an adult.

If for instance you grew up in a family setting where heavy drinking was a common occurrence, this can affect your relationship with alcohol as you grow older, as your perceptions of alcohol will likely be different than someone who had been raised in a household which didn’t drink alcohol. 

Religious Factors

While there’s no religion that will predispose you to alcoholism, you can become alcohol dependent regardless of your religion.

That said, religions which forbid or strongly oppose the consumption of alcohol put their followers at a much lower risk of alcohol dependence. 

Other factors that might put you at risk of alcohol dependence include;

  • Cultural and Social Factors - You’re likely to fall into dependence if your community or culture encourages drinking.

  • Ages - Though alcohol consumption can start at any age, people who start drinking at an earlier age are more likely to become dependent as they grow older.


Risks Associated with Alcohol Use and Alcoholism

Though alcohol consumption is widely accepted as a social norm, overindulgence can result in serious potential health risks.

Alcoholics, for instance, are at a greater risk of developing alcohol-related issues such as;

  • Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Infectious and neuropsychiatric diseases

  • Liver diseases

  • Pancreatitis

  • Cardiovascular diseases

Besides the above diseases, alcoholics are much more susceptible to sustain both intentional and unintentional physical injuries. This is not to mention the serious risk of harming those around you whilst under the influence. 

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Any condition that is considered hereditary involves the passing of gene mutations from one generation to the other. 

Whilst you are more likely to fall into alcohol dependence if your parent is a serial drinker, genetics alone will not cause alcohol dependence. In any case, the dependence is usually as a result of a combination of genetics plus other environmental factors.


Alcohol Use Disorder - Symptoms and Causes

Regardless of the cause, Alcohol Use Disorder ought to be treated as earliest as possible.

Some of the major symptoms of AUD include;

  • Severe headaches

  • Tremors

  • Withdrawal symptoms

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Coma

  • Stroke

Before AUD fully manifests itself, alcohol may have already changed the normal functioning of your brain including control, judgment, and pleasure.


Treating Alcoholism

Treatment of alcoholism usually happens through a detoxification process in a rehab centre or hospital. Detoxifying your body means that you stop consuming alcohol immediately, giving your body time to expel all the accumulated toxins.

During the process, your doctor may provide you with medication that will reduce the alcohol craving. Also, you might be sedated to help in dulling your senses as well as calming you down. The above medications go hand in hand with a vitamin injection that helps in promoting normal body function.

More importantly, a crucial part of the detoxifying process is the therapeutic counselling you will receive from experienced and qualified healthcare specialists.


When to See a Doctor

In most cases, alcoholics tend to be in denial about their drinking and do not recognise that they have a problem. Alcoholics sometimes do not see that the health/family issues they are experiencing are a direct result of their alcoholism.

If you are struggling to control your drinking or get the support you need, it’s a great time to visit your doctor and find out what help is available to you.

blogDanielle Robinson