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What Are The Causes Of Alcoholism?
There are many causes of alcoholism, or a dependency on alcohol. This chronic, progressive condition can result from multiple internal and external factors, including genetic dispositions, environment, and social pressure. This condition is defined by an inability to limit the number of drinks consumed, strong cravings to drink, or failure to fulfill obligations due to drinking.
An important part of recovery is recognizing the causes of alcoholism and the triggers that lead to cravings. While these causes influence the start of excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy drinking habits over an extended period of time rewires the brain and alters pleasure, judgment, and behavior brain functions.
Genetic Causes Of Alcoholism
The most difficult cause of alcoholism to recognize is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. Studies by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that about half the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is genetic. There are genes that make one more susceptible to overconsumption and use of alcohol. On the other hand, there are also genes that help fight these cravings.
If alcoholism runs in a family, it’s possible that it can develop or already has developed in any member. Looking at one’s family history for instances of addiction can help to determine a genetic predisposition. This might seem like fighting a losing battle, but it is important to remember that anything can be overcome with the right help and treatment.
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Environmental Causes Of Alcoholism
While genetics can dominate in developing an AUD, family life itself can also play a major role. Children have been shown to mimic the drinking behaviors and habits of their parents. If you are, or are becoming, a parent, consider the example you are setting.
Children who are introduced to alcohol at a younger age and have longer exposure to the substance are more likely to develop a dependency or addiction to the substance. As a preventative measure, some parents introduce their children to alcohol while they are well under the legal age. The idea is that they can introduce drinking to their child gradually and reduce the likelihood of binge drinking. However, an Australian study found that there is no evidence to support that this method is effective.
Accessibility to alcohol can be another major cause of alcoholism. The cost of alcohol varies greatly between cities and states. 78% of families who make over $75,000 a year drink alcohol, while only 45% of households that make less than $30,000 annually do.
A person’s friend group is another environmental factor that can influence alcoholism. In a study of 166 adolescents the biggest predictor in substance use was a friend’s substance using behaviors. Having friends who drink alcohol provides a model for drinking behavior and can even lead to peer pressure.
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Social Causes Of Alcoholism
The debate of nurture versus nature is often associated with the development of an AUD. Despite the strong impact of genetics and family, other societal pressures can be contributing factors to alcoholism.
College students are culturally expected to take part in social drinking, even to the point of binge drinking, while at school. Movies and television shows often portray this behavior in a positive light, while also vilifying those who try to promote responsible decision making and sobriety. These alcohol tropes perpetuate ideas of peer pressure which can cause college students to make decisions they normally wouldn’t like binge drinking, skipping classes, and avoiding responsibilities.
Alcohol advertising can also be a social cause for alcoholism. Advertising budgets for major breweries have increased exponentially over the past four decades, displaying the glamorous side of drinking to millions of people every day. We are at a point where positive images of drinking and its effects are universally present, creating a societal acceptance of even dangerous drinking behaviors. When drinking is normalized, more people drink and drink heavily which increases alcoholism rates and makes it less likely that many alcoholics will feel the need to seek treatment.
No Matter The Cause, Alcoholism Is Treatable
While external forces may have pushed you into alcoholism, you can still take control. Discovering the underlying causes behind your addiction is a powerful first step toward recovery. If you, or someone you know, needs help, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider for rehab-related support.
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