You may understand what alcoholism is, but how does it start? What leads a person from having the occasional drink to full-blown alcohol addiction? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple.
Alcoholism is a result of a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental and social factors. The more risk factors a person exhibits, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic. And sometimes those risk factors are entirely out of the person’s control. Let’s cover some of them below:
1. Stressful environments
While not every person turns to alcohol to relieve stress, some people do. When a person has a stressful job, for example, they may be more likely to drink heavily. This is often the case with certain occupations such as doctors and nurses – their day-to-day lives can be extremely stressful. To lower this risk factor, take the time to de-stress with healthy methods, like reading a good book, exercising or taking a nap.
2. Drinking at an early age
According to the Mayo Clinic, those who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to have an alcohol problem or a physical dependence on alcohol as they get older. Not only is this because drinking may become a comfortable habit, but also because the body’s tolerance levels may increase.
3. Mental health problems like depression
Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or other mental health issues can increase the risk of alcoholism. It’s easy to turn to alcohol when a person is feeling anxious or depressed – and the effects of alcohol may seem to temporarily ease those feelings. This can resort to drinking more and more, leading to alcohol addiction.
4. Taking alcohol with medicine
Some medicines can increase the toxic effects of alcohol on the body. When a person continually takes alcohol with their medications, they may become addicted to the effects that follow – some of which have the capability to be very dangerous and even life-threatening.
5. Family history
If you have a parent or other relative who is an alcoholic, your risk of alcoholism automatically increases. Part of this is due to genetics, but the other part has to do with your environment. Spending time around people who drink heavily or abuse alcohol can influence you to do the same.
Multiple factors can play a role in a person’s risk of alcoholism. While the above may not directly be considered “causes” of alcoholism, they can play a role in its development. It’s important to understand your risk and do what you can to lower it as much as possible.