People Become Alcoholics for a Reason

A much larger study of almost 4 million people in Korea noted that mild to moderate alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk for dementia compared to non-drinking. If the drinking world is conceptualized as a spectrum, normal social drinking is one on end (a few drinks per month, almost always in a social context) and alcohol use disorder is on the other end. 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. An example would be a father who falls asleep on the couch after having several drinks three or four days a week, missing out on time with his kids and wife.

why are people alcoholics

Alcohol use disorder affects millions of people, but it often goes undetected. Substance use frequently co-occurs with mental illness, but some research suggests that psychiatrists only treat addiction for around half of the patients who have both mental illness and substance use problems. This discrepancy highlights the obstacles in addiction care, such as that clinicians may be unaware of the signs of substance use or not want to alienate patients by bringing it up, and patients may not want to reveal their substance use, among other hurdles. For more information on symptoms, causes, and treatment of alcohol use disorder see our Diagnosis Dictionary. See your doctor if you begin to engage in behaviors that are signs of alcohol use disorder or if you think that you may have a problem with alcohol. You should also consider attending a local AA meeting or participating in a self-help program such as Women for Sobriety.

Alcohol and Your Brain: The Latest Scientific Insights

However, for someone with an alcohol dependence, that expectation may turn out to be unreasonable. If the person is incapable of even being honest with themselves, it may not be reasonable to expect them to be honest with you. Protect your children, and don’t hesitate to keep them away from someone who drinks and does not respect your boundaries.

  • Most individuals in this subtype are middle-aged and started drinking early.
  • Another goal of research on the genetics of alcoholism in humans is to determine to what extent individual differences in alcohol-related behavior are due to genetic versus environmental influences.
  • At all ages tested (12 through 25 years), regular alcohol use was highly correlated with regular tobacco use.
  • You may still want to help your loved one when they are in the middle of a crisis.
  • Essentially, it can be boiled down to the understanding that the potential causes of alcoholism are not well understood.
  • As found in past research (Cahalan et al., 1969; Clark & Midanik, 1982; NIDA, 1988), men consumed significantly more alcohol than did women, as indicated by all five alcohol consumption indicators.

Researchers also have investigated alcohol-related cognition (i.e., the conscious and unconscious knowledge or beliefs about alcohol) and the role of these beliefs in shaping alcohol-related behavior. Based on direct experience with the pharmacologic effects of alcohol and vicarious learning from parents, peers, and the broader culture and media, people develop expectancies about the effects of alcohol consumption on their behavior. Theorists have suggested that cognition may in some cases be a bridge between the primary reinforcing effects of alcohol and individual decisions to use it in a particular situation. Understanding how inborn vulnerability plays out in the temperament and behavior of an individual and in the context of family, peers, and culture is the goal of psychosocial research on the cause of alcoholism. The traits and family characteristics of children at risk because of a family history of alcoholism also predict risk in children of nonalcoholic parents. If alcoholism represents the end result of a sequence to which many factors contributed, then the hope is that by understanding the contributors and how they interact, it also will be possible to intervene before vulnerability becomes a destructive illness.


The harmful use of alcohol causes a high burden of disease and has significant social and economic consequences. A health care provider might ask the following questions to assess a person’s symptoms. There are many organized programs that provide the support of peers, usually through frequent meetings.

why are people alcoholics

Total alcohol per capita consumption in 2016 among male and female drinkers worldwide was on average 19.4 litres of pure alcohol for males and 7.0 litres for females. One size does not fit all and a why are people alcoholics treatment approach that may work for one person may not work for another. Treatment can be outpatient and/or inpatient and be provided by specialty programs, therapists, and health care providers.

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