The stigma surrounding alcoholism is somewhat unsympathetic and harsh. It is based on the assumption that people with alcohol use disorders lack self-respect or discipline. But, in truth, no one consciously chooses to become an alcoholic. The condition escalates gradually through a combination of alcohol use along with emotional, mental, physical, and environmental issues.
When a person develops alcohol use disorder (AUD), the underlying causes aren’t often clear. The reasons differ from one person to the next. So, it’s not possible to identify a single cause and focus on rectifying it specifically. However, some of the reasons people become alcoholics are not unique to that one individual. For instance, many people with AUD often struggle with some of the same life experiences that contribute to their drinking.
When we look for reasons why people drink, it’s important to consider the addictive nature of alcoholic substances. Yet, while that may be the primary reason why a person can’t stop their alcohol use, other factors are involved.
People Become Alcoholics for Many Reasons
Alcoholism is not a choice. Taking the first alcoholic drink was a choice, and drinking occasionally or socially is also a choice. But, when a person’s entire life is in shambles due to drinking, their ability to choose was defeated long ago. They keep drinking because they can’t stop.
So, let’s look at some of the reasons why a person becomes so strongly addicted to alcohol.
Reason #1: Drinking at a Young Age
Although the legal drinking age is 21, far too many teens gain access to alcohol easily and regularly. Also, studies show that people who begin drinking at age 14 are more likely to become alcoholics.
In 2019, about 24 percent of 14 to 15 year-olds admitted having tried at least one drink. Furthermore, a report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that 4.2 million young people reported binge drinking at least once in the past month. The report also shows that 825,000 teens reported binge drinking on five or more days during the past month. Surprisingly, the study goes on to show that more adolescent girls report alcohol use and binge drinking than boys.
As a result of those studies, we can see that kids who start drinking before age 15 are at high risk for AUD in adulthood.
Some of the risks and consequences of underage drinking include the following:
- Death from vehicle accidents, homicides, overdoses, drowning, or suicides.
- Alcohol-related injuries from falls, burns, fighting, rape, and more.
- Unprotected sex resulting in unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and STDs.
- Trouble at school or with the law.
- Altered brain functioning can cause learning problems and vulnerability to AUD.
Yet, despite education and prevention campaigns in schools and elsewhere about the dangers of alcohol abuse, the number of teens using alcohol continues to rise.
Reason #2: Mental Health Problems
Individuals with alcohol abuse problems often have underlying mental health issues. The issues may consist of:
- bipolar disorder
- low self-esteem
- social phobias
- panic or anxiety disorders
Studies show that about 29 percent of people with mental health issues also have substance abuse problems, including alcohol. Unfortunately, many mental health issues often go undiagnosed. So, the individual uses alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication to help them cope.
Reason #3: Genetic Predisposition
Research shows that genetics play a significant role in whether a person develops AUD. For instance, if a child’s parent(s) abuses alcohol, the child is four times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life. In fact, researchers have identified specific genes that increase the risk for alcoholism. This study may help explain why alcoholism seems to run in families. However, it’s important to note this does not mean there is a “gene for alcoholism.” The disorder is affected by environmental, mental, and social factors as well.
Reason #4: Environmental and Social Factors
Public health experts and practitioners have determined that a person’s environment has a strong influence on their attitudes and beliefs about drinking alcohol. Furthermore, social acceptance of alcohol plays a significant role in influencing a person to drink. Another contributing factor is that alcohol is legal, easily available, and widely marketed.
Some of the environmental and social factors that can lead to drinking problems include:
- Movies, music, and social media glorify drunken behavior.
- A large number of licensed liquor establishments in an area.
- College towns tend to have higher numbers of alcohol-related problems.
- Advertising helps create the image that drinking is normal. Billions of dollars a year are spent on advertising beer and other alcoholic beverages.
- One or both parents drink regularly or heavily in front of children.
- Peer pressure has a major influence on a person’s decision to drink.
- Children who are subjected to physical, verbal, or sexual abuse are more likely to use alcohol or drugs.
Clearly, alcohol use and abuse is a complex issue. But, the above information confirms that alcoholism is not simply a lack of willpower or a moral failing.
Find Freedom from Alcoholism at Design for Change Recovery
Anyone with alcohol-related problems is suffering needlessly. Their suffering can end with help from our professional addiction treatment program at Design for Change Recovery. We offer a comprehensive and individualized approach to treatment that works. We don’t just treat the physical aspect of alcoholism, we help people gain the skills and confidence needed for long-term sober living. So, if you want help with alcohol abuse or addiction, contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility today to learn more about our program.