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What Causes Alcoholism and How Can I Prevent It?

Approximately 14.5 million adults aged 18 and older in the United States had AUD in 2019. The causes of alcoholism can be varied.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic and progressive disease affecting millions worldwide. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 14.5 million adults aged 18 and above in the United States had AUD in 2019.

The condition can lead to various physical and mental health problems and negatively impact an individual’s personal and professional life.

Key Takeaways

Alcoholism is a chronic and potentially life-threatening disease characterized by an inability to control alcohol consumption. Here’s what you need to know about alcoholism:

  • It is characterized by compulsive and uncontrolled alcohol use despite negative consequences such as health problems, relationship issues, and financial difficulties.
  • Alcoholism is a complex disease that can have both genetic and
  • environmental influences
  • Alcoholism treatment often involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you want help, get quality help from The Haven Detox-South Florida and achieve sobriety. Contact us at (561) 328-8627 to learn more about our treatment programs and service charges.

Your Brain on Alcohol

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that can have short-term and long-term effects on the brain. When consumed, alcohol enters the bloodstream and crosses the blood-brain barrier, affecting various neurotransmitters, including dopamine and GABA, which can lead to altered mood, impaired coordination, and reduced inhibitions.

In the short term, alcohol can cause a feeling of euphoria or relaxation. Still, as the blood-alcohol concentration increases, it can impair judgment and cognitive function, leading to slurred speech, blurred vision, and slowed reaction time. 

In extreme cases, alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can cause respiratory depression, seizures, and even coma.

Long-term alcohol consumption can have more severe effects on the brain, including the risk of developing alcohol use disorder and alcohol-related brain damage. Chronic alcohol use can lead to brain shrinkage, memory loss, liver disease, and other cognitive impairments.

These effects are thought to be related to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol on brain cells and the disruption of normal brain function.

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

There are several risk factors associated with the development of the disorder.

Family History

Family history is one of the most significant risk factors for alcoholism. Research has shown that individuals with a parent, sibling, or another close relative with AUD are more likely to develop the issue or become alcohol dependent.

The genetic and environmental factors contributing to this increased risk are not fully understood. However, it is believed that both nature and nurture play a role. For example, some studies suggest that specific genes may increase an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholism.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is another significant risk factor for alcoholism, especially among young people. Adolescents and young people are more vulnerable to the influence of their peers as they seek to establish their identity and fit in with their social group. 

Drinking alcohol is often seen as a rite of passage or a way to bond with friends, and many young people feel pressure to drink in social situations.

Research has shown that young people who perceive their peers to be drinkers are more likely to engage in heavy drinking. This is known as the “social norms” approach to peer pressure.

High-Stress Levels

High-stress levels are another risk factor for alcoholism. Stress is a natural response to challenging situations and can be beneficial in small doses. However, chronic stress can negatively impact physical and mental health and lead to the development of AUD in some individuals.

Studies have shown that stress can affect the brain’s reward system, which plays a key role in the development of addiction. In response to stress, the brain releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase the desire for alcohol and other substances.

Issues with Mental Health

Mental illness is a wide range of conditions that affect an individual’s emotional, psychological, and behavioral functioning. Many people with mental illnesses turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication to deal with their symptoms. 

For example, someone with anxiety may drink alcohol to calm their nerves, while someone with depression may drink to alleviate feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

Additionally, mental illness and excessive alcohol use often co-occur. Studies have found that individuals with mental illnesses are more likely to develop alcoholism than those without mental health conditions.

Preventing Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism is a chronic and potentially fatal disease affecting millions worldwide. While alcohol consumption is an everyday social activity, excessive and prolonged use can lead to addiction and have serious negative consequences on one’s health, relationships, and overall quality of life. The best way to combat alcoholism is through prevention.

The most effective way to prevent alcohol misuse is to limit alcohol consumption. It is important to know one’s limits and to avoid excessive drinking

Experts recommend that men consume no more than two drinks per day, and women should consume no more than one drink daily. In addition, it is important to avoid binge drinking, which is defined as consuming four or more drinks in a single session for women and five or more for men.

Another key factor in preventing alcoholism is developing healthy coping mechanisms. Many people use alcohol to cope with anxiety, stress, and depression. However, other healthy ways to deal with these emotions include exercise, meditation, and therapy. It is also important to develop a strong support system, whether it be through family, friends, or a support group.

Lastly, it is crucial to seek professional help if you or someone you love is dealing with alcohol addiction.

Long-term alcohol abuse is a disease that requires treatment and support. Many resources, such as therapy, support groups, and inpatient rehabilitation centers, can provide the tools and resources to overcome alcohol addiction.

Treatments for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a chronic disease that causes mental health disorders in millions of people around the world. It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to consume alcohol, even when it causes negative consequences such as health, relationship, and work-related problems.

Fortunately, several effective treatments are available for alcohol intoxication, ranging from detoxification to inpatient rehab and aftercare. 


Detoxification, or detox, is the first step in treating alcohol problems. It involves the removal of alcohol from the body and the management of withdrawal symptoms. Detox should always be carried out under medical supervision, as withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity, depending on the level of alcohol consumption and the individual’s overall health. 

Common symptoms include tremors, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, sweating, and hallucinations. In severe cases, delirium tremens (DTs), a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment, can occur.

Patients may be given medication during detox to help manage their withdrawal symptoms. These medications may include benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants. Medical professionals will closely monitor the patient’s vital signs and provide any necessary medical interventions.

Detox typically lasts several days to a week, after which patients are stabilized and prepared for further treatment.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab, also called residential rehab, is a comprehensive treatment program that provides round-the-clock care and support for patients with alcoholism. Inpatient rehab is often recommended for individuals with severe or long-standing addiction and those who have unsuccessfully tried other treatments.

Inpatient rehab typically lasts 30 to 90 days, during which patients participate in a range of therapies and activities designed to help them overcome

alcohol dependence. These may include:

Individual therapy: Patients work one-on-one with a therapist to tackle the root causes of their drinking problems and develop coping skills for managing triggers and cravings.

Group therapy: Patients participate in group therapy sessions, where they can share their experiences and learn from others experiencing similar struggles.

Behavioral therapy: Patients may participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other behavioral therapies designed to help them identify and change negative behavior and thought patterns.

Alternative therapies: Inpatient rehab programs may offer alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, and art therapy to help patients manage stress and improve their overall emotional health.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare is an essential part of alcoholism treatment. Aftercare is the ongoing support and treatment patients receive after completing their initial treatment program. Aftercare is designed to help patients maintain their sobriety and prevent relapse.

There are several different types of aftercare programs available, including:

  • Outpatient rehab: Outpatient rehab programs allow patients to continue receiving treatment while living at home. Patients typically attend therapy sessions and support group meetings several times a week.
  • Sober living homes: Sober living homes are group homes where individuals in recovery can live together and support each other. These homes provide a safe and sober living environment, often requiring residents to participate in regular drug testing and attend support group meetings.
  • Support groups: Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery provide ongoing support and encouragement for individuals in recovery. These groups typically meet regularly and offer a safe environment for individuals to share their experiences and receive support.

How to Help a Loved One

If your family member is going through a difficult time, there are several ways you can support them:

  • Listen: One of the most important things you can do is to be a good listener. Give them your full attention, empathize, and avoid judging or criticizing them.
  • Offer support: Ask them what you can do to help, and be specific in your offer. For example, if they are going through a divorce, you can offer to watch their kids while they meet with their lawyer.
  • Provide resources: If your friend or family member is struggling with a particular issue, provide them with resources that can help. This could be anything from a book on managing anxiety to a list of therapists in their area.
  • Be there for them: Check in regularly, even just a quick text or phone call. Let them know you’re thinking of them and are there for them if they need you.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help: If your friend or family member is struggling with a mental health disorder, encourage them to seek medical help from a healthcare provider. Offer to help them find a therapist or support group.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What causes people to become an alcoholic?

There is no single cause of alcoholism, as it is a complex problem that arises from genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.
One of the leading causes of alcoholism or heavy alcohol use is genetics. Research suggests a hereditary component to the disorder, with individuals with a family history of alcoholism at a greater risk of developing the condition.
Environmental factors can also contribute to the development of alcoholism. The environment in which a person grows up can significantly impact their drinking behavior.
Behavioral factors such as peer pressure, social norms, and the availability of alcohol can also contribute to the development of alcoholism.

What mental illness causes alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is not considered a mental illness in itself, but it is closely linked to a number of mental health conditions. People who struggle with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are at an increased risk of developing alcoholism. 
This is because alcohol can be used to self-medicate or cope with the symptoms of these conditions. Additionally, alcoholism can exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness and make it more challenging to manage.

What are the main causes and effects of alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is a severe problem that can have numerous adverse effects on an individual’s physical, mental, and social well-being. The primary causes of alcohol abuse are often attributed to genetics, environmental factors, and psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause various health problems, including liver damage, heart disease, and cognitive impairment.
Additionally, alcohol can negatively impact personal relationships, career prospects, and financial stability. Furthermore, alcohol abuse can increase the risk of accidents and fatalities caused by impaired driving or other risky behavior.

Help Is Available at The Haven Detox–South Florida

Are you looking for help to get rid of alcohol use disorder? The Haven Detox–South Florida is here to provide the support and care you need to begin your journey to recovery.

Our expert team of medical and addiction specialists is dedicated to helping you safely and comfortably detox from drugs or alcohol. Through our residential treatment program tailored to your unique needs. We will guide you and prepare you for ongoing addiction treatment.

Don’t wait another day to take control of your addiction. Call (561) 328-8627 now to begin your journey to lasting recovery.

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