The question of why does alcohol addiction occur is one that is often asked not only by those affected with the illness but also by their family members and friends. Wondering why some people develop this illness while others do not can consume the mind. The reality is that experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of addiction. What they do know though is that there are many factors that can increase the risk of someone developing it.
If you have been pondering the question why does alcohol addiction occur and whether you are prone to it, you should know what the risk factors are. However, it must be mentioned that even if you have every single risk factor, you are not ‘guaranteed’ to become an alcoholic. The truth is that there is no way to predict who will and who will not go on to develop alcoholism.
There are some individuals who have every single risk factor yet still do not become alcoholics. On the flip-side, there are those who do not have one risk factor yet still find their life destroyed by a crippling addiction that they have no control over.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism
What scientists and researchers know is that addiction can happen to anyone who uses mood-altering substances such as alcohol. They also know that there are certain factors that make it more likely for one person to develop an alcohol problem over another. Below we discuss a few of these risk factors:
Family History of Addiction
People with addiction in their family have a higher chance of going on to develop the illness themselves than those who do not. It is often that they are predisposed to addiction because of a combination of certain genes and that they have been influenced by addiction being a factor in their lives from a young age.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that having certain genes does not mean you will become an addict. It is thought that these genes need to be activated, and that the individual’s immediate environment can influence this.
Children who grow up with alcoholic parents might be expected to shun alcohol themselves, having seen the damage it can cause. Nonetheless, what often happens is that these children are more prone to alcoholism because they are familiar with the idea of using alcohol as a coping mechanism, just as their parents did. Having an alcoholic parent increases the risk of going on to develop the illness in later life. In fact, these people are around four times more likely to be affected than someone who did not grow up with an alcoholic parent.
Trauma accounts for many cases of alcoholism. Countless individuals turn to alcohol to help them cope with stress, and a leading cause of stress is traumatic experiences. The more trauma a person has experienced, the higher the risk for alcoholism.
Traumatic events can include being the victim of domestic violence or any type of abuse, being bullied, witnessing war, witnessing a violent crime, the death of a loved one, being neglected as a child, or having a parent with a mental health problem.
The environment in which a person grows up can impact his or her risk for alcoholism. The experiences that shape life can influence the onset of an addiction. This can include relationships with friends or family members, quality of life, and stress.
Mental Health Problems
Just as living with a mentally ill parent can increase the risk for addiction, so too can the presence of mental health problems in the individual. There is a strong link between mental health problems and substance abuse. Many people self-medicate with alcohol when symptoms of their mental health problems affect daily life. On the flip side, there are others who go on to develop mental health problems because of their substance abuse.
One thing is certain though; those who struggle with conditions such as anxiety disorder, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to develop an alcohol problem than those who do not.
The earlier a person starts drinking, the higher their risk for addiction in later life. The majority of alcoholics began drinking before they reached the legal age of eighteen.
It has to be remembered that although the above factors do increase the risk for addiction, they do not guarantee it will happen.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
Alcohol addiction is a devastating illness that can destroy the lives of those affected. It does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or where the affected person lives. The only way to be sure of avoiding the illness is to abstain from alcohol completely.
While most people can drink it in moderation, there are some who allow their use of alcohol to spiral out of control. Having said that, alcohol addiction does not occur overnight. So although the question of why does alcohol addiction occur is an important one, so too is the issue of how it occurs.
For most, it begins with experimentation. Drinking alcohol for the first time is a choice, and there are many reasons individuals choose to drink it. The fact that it is a legal substance and one that plays such a huge part of modern society explains why most people drink alcohol to some extent.
However, having said that, there are some who choose to drink alcohol for reasons other than being sociable. Many drink it because they like the fact that it numbs their pain and helps them to forget about life for a while. It is these people that have a considerable risk for addiction.
Since alcohol is a highly addictive substance, it can hijack the reward system in the brain of some drinkers. When the person drinks alcohol, his or her brain releases a surge of feel-good chemicals that makes him/her want to drink again and again. Over time, their body gets used to the presence of alcohol and they start to crave it whenever the effects wear off.
When alcohol consumption crosses a line from social drinking to problem drinking, the risk of addiction is extremely high. An increased tolerance to alcohol often means that the individual will increase his or her consumption to compensate. As their body has adapted, the production of feel-good chemicals decreases with their usual amount of alcohol. He or she will therefore need to drink more to achieve the desired feelings. This can lead to a physical dependence, followed by a crippling addiction.
Breaking free from alcohol once a physical dependence has developed can be a huge struggle. It is at this point that most people will need professional help to get their life back on track. This professional help usually comes in the form of a detox, followed by rehabilitation.
Overcoming an Alcohol Addiction
Just as an alcohol addiction takes time to develop, it takes time to get better as well. The recovery process is a long one, but with the right help and support, it is possible to turn the proverbial back on alcohol use for good.
The idea of giving up alcohol forever often gets in the way of recovery, however. As alcohol is such a huge part of modern society and is widely available and actively encouraged, there are some who feel their life will have no meaning without it. These individuals believe that they will not be able to socialise with family members or friends, or that they will no longer have any fun.
The reality is that more and more people today are choosing to shun alcohol – and not because they have to. They are more aware of the dangers of this chemical substance and know that it is not necessary for enjoyment.
In fact, avoiding alcohol for good means being fitter, healthier and less likely to develop a host of mental and physical health problems in the future.
If you suffer from alcohol issues, by getting started with a detox programme, you will break the cycle of addiction and your body and mind can begin the healing process. During this treatment, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms that may make you feel unwell. The important thing to remember is that these feelings will not last. After about seven to ten days, the worst of these symptoms will have passed and you will be ready to get started on the road to recovery.
Rehabilitation is the next step, and for most people, inpatient programmes are the best option. The reason for this is that they offer the best chance for permanent recovery in the shortest amount of time. Committing to a programme of inpatient care that will last for around six to eight weeks could see you overcoming your addiction for good.
If you are interested in getting started on your recovery journey, please give us a call. We are experts in helping people overcome all types of addiction, including alcoholism. With support from a team of fully trained, counsellors, therapists, doctors, and support staff, you could be saying goodbye to alcohol for good.