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Risk Factors for Alcoholism

There are many risk factors that can contribute to the development of alcoholism. Learn all about them, and get help for alcohol addiction and get your life back!

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Alcoholism Causes and Risk Factors

Alcoholism is a very complicated disease, and the nuances of addiction are different case-by-case.

It can be difficult to determine exact causes or risk factors. It is also important to keep in mind that although someone with very few risk factors may suffer from severe alcoholism, another person with many risk factors may not

What Causes Alcoholism

There is no single cause of alcoholism. There are a plethora of risk factors that play a role in the development of alcohol abuse disorder.
These risk factors affect every individual differently and may lead to alcoholism in some people, but not others.
There are internal and external factors that contribute to individuals developing alcoholism.
Internal factors include genetics, psychological issues, personality, personal choice, and personal history. External factors include social and cultural norms, family, upbringing, location, age, education, income, and job status.
Because there are so many factors that can influence the development of alcohol use disorder, it is almost impossible to accurately predict whether or not someone will develop alcoholism.
While each individual can choose whether or not to start drinking, research does suggest that it is largely out of their control as to whether or not they develop alcohol use disorder.
It is also true that no single or combination of factors will determine whether or not someone goes on to become an alcoholic.

Psychological Factors

Certain psychological factors increase the likelihood that someone will develop alcohol use disorder.

People with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety are much more likely to become alcoholics. 

Most people with mental health disorders turn to alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. They may use alcohol as a form of self-medication.
For example, some people with depression may claim that alcohol improves their mood. People with schizophrenia may claim that alcohol quiets the voices in their heads.
Self-medicating with alcohol is especially common in individuals who have yet to be diagnosed.

To exacerbate the problem, many mental health disorders reduce an individual’s ability to understand the dangers of their drinking and they will be more likely to ignore risks and warning signs that their drinking is a problem.


Some personality types are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than others.
People who are more spontaneous and reckless may be more likely to engage in heavy drinking, as are people who are less inhibited.
As with genetics, personality factors are complex and compound each other.
Someone who wants to be seen as fun and the life of the party may drink heavily to keep up this facade.
Conversely, someone who is very shy may start drinking to overcome these feelings and to help them interact socially.

Personal Choice

There is some element of personal choice when it comes to alcoholism.
For example, a person who does not enjoy alcohol and who has decided that they will never have a drink is not going to develop an alcohol addiction.
In addition to this, people who avoid social situations where drinking is likely to occur are also less likely to develop a problem with drinking.


Many studies show that genetics play a huge role in whether or not someone will become an alcoholic.
The biological children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves, whether or not they were raised by their biological parents.
Similarly, non-biological children who were raised by alcoholic adoptive parents are less likely to develop alcohol use disorder.
The role of genetics in developing alcoholism is not fully understood, although it is believed that alcohol addiction is not caused by a single gene. Rather, it is suspected that alcoholism is caused by a large number of genes interacting with each other.
Genetics play a part in many aspects of alcohol consumption, including how severe hangovers are, how a person reacts to alcohol, and how likely someone is to continue to stop drinking. There are at least 51 genes that have been identified as having an impact on alcohol use disorder.


Aside from genetics, family life plays a significant role in the likelihood that an individual will develop alcoholism.
People who grow up around heavy drinkers are more likely to become addicted to alcohol. In these families, heavy drinking is normal, socially acceptable, and sometimes, even expected.


The environment someone lives in plays a big part in the development of alcohol use disorder.
In some states, it is much harder and more expensive to get alcohol. Whilst in others it is very easy and affordable to access alcohol.
Family wealth is also a contributing factor. People from wealthier families are far more likely to heavily consume alcohol and develop alcoholism.


While someone from any religion can become addicted to alcohol, people who are devout in their faith – if their religion strongly opposes alcohol use – are less likely to become alcoholics.
Some of the most common religions that oppose or restrict the use of alcohol include Islam, Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism, and Evangelical Protestantism.

Social and Cultural

In societies and cultures where drinking is socially acceptable and even encouraged, alcohol abuse is more likely to develop. An example of this is college, where drinking, often to excess, is encouraged. Binge drinking is frequently seen in college-age young adults. 


People in certain professions are more likely to develop alcohol addiction than others.
This is more so the case in high-stress and high-risk professions such as military members or people in high-pressured financial careers.

Specific Risk Factors

Specific risk factors that contribute to the risk of developing alcoholism include:
  • Consuming more than 12 drinks per week for women, and more than 15 for men
  • Consuming more than five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men, or four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women. Also known as binge drinking
  • Having a biological family member with a history of alcoholism or substance abuse
  • Having a pre-existing mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
  • Being pressured to drink by peers, especially as a young adult 
  • Experiencing high levels of stress, or working in a high-stress, high-risk environment 
  • Being in an environment, or being a member of a family where alcohol use is common

Get Help for Alcoholism Now

Regardless of how many risk factors are present, recovery is possible. It is vital to remember that no risk factor can decide your future. That is up to you.
We are here to help you overcome alcohol addiction and get your life back on track.
Our treatment navigators have years of experience dealing with alcoholics from all walks of life with all types of risk factors. Contact us and we will help you find the right treatment facility for your needs.

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