Science Reveals Why Some Drinkers Become Alcoholics and Others Do

For example, if they drink to cope with stress or negative feelings, it may seem to work in the short term, but increased cortisol levels leave the person feeling more anxious than when they started drinking. This contributes to increased tolerance and the individual needs to drink more to produce the same effect. Only nine percent of people who wait until the age of 21 to drink become addicts. There have been a number of things done to stop teens from drinking. Many schools today teach about the importance of abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

  • But there’s a large gray area in the middle, in which drinking can cause problems for someone’s health, job, or loved ones, but not to a clinical extent.
  • Find a treatment center using the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
  • In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 44% of respondents reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to ease uncomfortable feelings that stem from underlying anxiety.
  • Research also shows a connection between heavy alcohol use and heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Most people with an alcohol use disorder will experience a negative impact on their relationships. They will likely experience deteriorating relationships with family and friends and might have difficulty at work. Those with alcohol use disorder will continue to drink despite increased isolation and separation from loved ones. People with alcohol use disorder might reduce their participation in social events and become withdrawn over time.


This emphasizes the importance of delving deeper into one’s genetic makeup and personal history with alcohol to determine safe consumption limits. Some problematic drinkers often look to validate their own habits by pointing to societal norms that are themselves excessive or unhealthy. Others discount the potential harms of heavy consumption through misplaced bravado, or feel that those who warn of the risks of alcohol are trying to stop people from enjoying themselves. Research on cognitive biases may help to explain the discrepancy between our perceptions of drugs and alcohol at the societal and personal levels of risk.

The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed. Learn more about the financial impact of alcohol misuse in the United States. Unlike cocaine or heroin, alcohol is widely available and accepted in many cultures. It’s often at the center of social situations and closely linked to celebrations and enjoyment. Alcohol use disorder can include periods of being drunk (alcohol intoxication) and symptoms of withdrawal.

Why Do People Become Alcoholics?

Based on these findings, the causes of alcoholism can lie in mental and emotional health. A person who is overly stressed, anxious or depressed may begin using alcohol to cope but eventually develop an alcohol addiction. Find up-to-date statistics on lifetime drinking, past-year drinking, past-month drinking, binge drinking, heavy alcohol use, and high-intensity drinking. Someone with an alcohol addiction who has remained sober for months or years may find themselves drinking again. They may binge drink once or drink for a period of time before getting sober again. It’s important that the person get back on track and resume treatment.

why are people alcoholics

Nearly all risks involved with alcohol addiction may be avoidable or treatable, with successful long-term recovery. As an addiction tends to get worse over time, it’s important to look for early warning signs. If identified and treated early, someone with an alcohol addiction may be able to avoid major consequences of the disease. It can cause changes to the brain and neurochemistry, so a person with an alcohol addiction may not be able to control their actions. You may need to seek treatment at an inpatient facility if your addiction to alcohol is severe. These facilities will provide you with 24-hour care as you withdraw from alcohol and recover from your addiction.

Where to Find Help if You or a Loved One is an Alcoholic

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism warns that binge drinking and heavy alcohol use are among the causes of alcoholism. Loved ones are an integral part of the addiction recovery process, but they need to balance their own needs in addition to providing support. To do that, they can set boundaries around their emotional, physical, and financial relationship, for example that the house will remain an alcohol-free zone. They can research alcoholism to understand the underpinnings of the disorder, the signs of an overdose, and other important information. They can discuss co-occurring mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women shouldn’t drink more than one drink per day, and men shouldn’t drink more than two drinks per day.
  • When people drink moderately, the body boosts the supply of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.
  • They may binge drink once or drink for a period of time before getting sober again.
  • These changes can compromise brain function and drive the transition from controlled, occasional use to chronic misuse, which can be difficult to control.
  • Alcohol use disorder is a problematic pattern of alcohol use that leads to distress in one’s daily life, according to the DSM-5.
  • The World Health Organization used to define “moderate use” as up to one standard drink per day for women and up to two standard drinks for men.

We encourage you to seek the advice of a mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your mental health. They provide an escape from daily stressors, allow us to express our creativity and offer opportunities for social interaction. A 2015 study in BMC Public Health explored the link between artistic pursuits and mental why are people alcoholics well-being. This sheds light on the potential benefits of artistic endeavors as a means to bolster mental wellness. For this genetically or socially predisposed segment of the population, the conventional standards of moderation might prove risky. For them, the risk of addiction, be it physical or psychological, looms larger, drawing them closer to the perilous side of alcohol.

Steps to Take if You’re Abusing Alcohol

But alcohol is also classified as a depressant and can cause fatigue, restlessness, and depression. It may shift from stimulant to sedative in line with whether blood alcohol content is rising or falling. Given the power of alcohol on the brain, people who drink heavily may come to rely on it to regulate their mood. Alcohol is a powerful substance, with the capacity for positive experiences, such as bursts of creativity and fun, as well as harmful repercussions, such as addiction and health problems. Becoming dependent on alcohol can lead to challenges for both the mind and the body. Alcohol use disorder affects millions of people, but it often goes undetected.

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