The cause of alcohol use disorder (AUD) may range from various factors, including environmental factors, mental health disorders and more. There may even be several factors that can cause AUD that individuals are unaware of. However, through education, individuals can become aware of the potential risk factors of AUD and protect themselves and those they love. Looking at the reasons people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism can help raise awareness about the potential risk factors of AUD.

What is AUD?

Today, alcoholism is referred to as an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This disorder can be characterized by a person drinking to the point that their body becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol, making the substance the number one priority in their life. An individual that has AUD will continue to consume alcohol even after their drinking has caused negative consequences in their life. 

What Causes AUD?

There is no one accepted cause of AUD – there are various risk factors involved. AUD forms when a person drinks so much that the brain’s reward circuit is altered to associate drinking alcohol with pleasure. This change causes individuals to drink more, even when the feelings of pleasure subside. After drinking for an extended period, withdrawal symptoms occur when an individual ceases drinking; this causes a cycle of continued drinking. Individuals continue to drink to relieve these withdrawal symptoms. 

Why Do People Turn to Alcohol?

The reasons people use alcohol as a coping mechanism vary based on numerous factors. AUD does not discriminate and can affect anyone from any age, background, gender, or ethnicity. Often, individuals use alcohol to cope with various factors rather than just one thing. Understanding these reasons can provide further insight into why people develop AUD and how to prevent it.

Family History

If AUD runs in your family, you pose a higher risk of developing AUD yourself than someone that does not have a genetic history of AUD. Studies have shown that genes play a significant role in developing AUD, specifically those that affect alcohol metabolism. Therefore, if AUD runs in your family, you should watch your alcohol consumption; doing this will lessen the chance of developing the disorder. 

Mental Health

Those who struggle with mental health disorders may often look for relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately, alcohol is commonly used to self-medicate and escape from these symptoms. However, the relief is only temporary and can result in the symptoms worsening over time. Worsened symptoms can cause the person to drink more to relieve them, leaving them in a dangerous cycle of addiction and mental health issues.

External Environment

Many people do not realize the impact their environment can have on them, especially when it comes to addiction. If you grow up in adverse circumstances, you may be more likely to develop AUD, especially if you grew up in an area with high rates of teenage drinking, as peer pressure can play a role in your development of AUD. Other risk factors involve growing up in poverty, as many use alcohol to escape their environment. If you grew up in a home where alcohol abuse was prevalent, you might also be at risk. Consistent exposure to alcohol abuse can cause individuals to become accustomed to seeing alcohol used to relieve problems. 

Experiencing Trauma

Many individuals use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with trauma, especially if the trauma is unresolved. Symptoms of experiencing trauma that has not yet been healed can make life challenging. If you have experienced multiple traumatic experiences, you could be more at risk of developing AUD.

The Danger of Justifications

You will often find that those struggling with AUD do not want to stop drinking alcohol despite the negative impact on their lives. The body becomes dependent on alcohol in its system and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms when drinking is stopped. People struggling with AUD may also not want to admit they have a problem due to fear of recovery. Therefore, justifications are often made to continue pursuing the substance. Common justifications for alcohol addiction include:

  • “Life without alcohol is boring; I can’t have fun without alcohol.”
  • “I work better when I’m drinking.”
  • “I still have a job, so things aren’t that bad.”
  • “My life is terrible; I need alcohol to get through it.” 
  • “Alcohol helps with my anxiety.” 

Each justification made for continuing alcohol abuse puts the person more and more at risk. Justifications are dangerous because they keep the person trapped inside the cycle of addiction. They live in denial and refuse help because they justify their use and believe they need to continue using. Justifications can also slow or deter recovery. For these reasons, it is essential to drop them as soon as possible.


Alcohol is commonly used as a coping mechanism for various circumstances depending on the person and their background. There are various risk factors that can place you in a more vulnerable position of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), especially if you have multiple risk factors. The important thing is to educate yourself on the risk factors of AUD and monitor yourself to ensure you do not develop one. It is also essential to recognize if you are justifying your alcohol consumption, as this can keep you from seeing the negative impacts it has on your life and keep you from getting help. At the Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, our goal is to help you live your best life in sobriety. We believe that anyone can heal from addiction, and our high-quality programs can offer you the chance to live a better life. Call us today to learn more at (877) 557-5372.