Finding out someone you love is struggling with alcoholism can be shocking. However, alcoholism does not happen overnight. There are many reasons why people turn to alcohol to cope with their problems. By understanding alcoholism, it can help bring an understanding on how to treat this disease.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as an alcohol use disorder, is classified as a person being dependent or addicted to alcohol to the point that they cannot control their drinking. Their thoughts become focused solely on alcohol, and they will continue using despite any physical, mental, or life problems that may occur. When attempting to stop drinking, those addicted to alcohol may not have the ability to cease use and may have withdrawal symptoms.
Causes & Risk Factors
Causes of alcoholism range from social and environmental to genetic and psychological factors. There are individual causes and risk factors, but there are common signs that may lead to developing an alcohol use disorder. While these risk factors do not always mean a person will develop an addiction to alcohol, it is crucial to be aware of them.
Drinking When Young
Individuals who begin drinking alcohol at an early age are more at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder. A young person’s brain is not fully developed, and heavy alcohol consumption can cause brain changes as it is forming.
Family History of Alcohol Abuse
If an individual has a family with a history of alcohol abuse, the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder is higher. The greater risk with family history is often due to genetic factors. Scientists estimate that 40-60% of a person’s vulnerability to alcoholism is due to these genetic factors.
If a person has experienced trauma, they are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use may occur to help cope with trauma-related symptoms. Trauma can be physical, emotional, mental or medical. One-time events, ongoing stress and even having surgery can cause trauma.
Mental Health Problems
People with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc., are at a higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Regular Alcohol Consumption
Drinking alcohol regularly, especially in large amounts, may pose a higher risk of developing an addiction or alcohol use disorder. Regular use affects the brain over time.
If an individual is surrounded by people who consume alcohol regularly, especially in large amounts, their likelihood of drinking increases. This is especially true in today’s drinking culture, as alcohol is everywhere. Movies, songs and TV shows show people getting drunk regularly, indicating that binge drinking is OK. Peer pressure also plays a role. People are more likely to drink if their friends or family are pressuring them to do so.
Who is Most at Risk?
Certain groups are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. The reasons vary, but statistics show that the following groups pose a higher risk:
- Abused children
- Individuals with a mental health disorder
- College students
- Native Americans
- LGBTQ+ community
Most of these groups develop an alcohol use disorder due to cultural and societal stigmas. Other groups develop alcoholism due to ongoing discrimination and as a way to cope with low self-esteem. Negative outside factors can also play a role, such as abuse or peer pressure.
Why Do People Turn to Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism?
Risk factors play a role in developing alcoholism. However, risk factors do not explain why alcohol is often the chosen vice for many who need to cope with problems. Understanding why alcohol may be the drug of choice of so many can lead to a better understanding and prevention strategies to deter people from using it.
Many people enjoy the feeling that alcohol gives them. For those who are quiet and have difficulty socializing with others, alcohol may help them become more social and willing to try new things. Using alcohol for these reasons can lead to risky behavior and impulsive decisions, which can have severe consequences.
Others may drink because alcohol helps them not think about their life or problems. They are able to ignore the pain when they are under the influence of alcohol. If someone has a mental health disorder, they may use alcohol to cope with the symptoms.
Individuals may drink to cope with their problems, whether internal or external. However, most don’t realize that large consumption of alcohol creates problems and worsens existing issues.
At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, our goal is to help our patients become sober from alcohol and lead a happy, fulfilling life in recovery. Inpatient and outpatient treatment is offered to help with healing. Our methods of treatment utilize psychotherapy from our highly trained staff. If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, contact us today to learn more about our program. You can reach us at (877) 557-5372. Your journey begins here.