Does one drink always turn into raucous night? Have you noticed your drinking negatively impacting your life but can’t seem to stop anyway? Do you feel bad – really bad – when you can’t have a drink?
These are what some describe as a good night out. But the truth is that they are also tell-tale signs of alcoholism.
Alcohol doesn’t need to control your life. But to get help beating your addiction, it’s important to understand the causes of alcoholism.
There’s no one cause of alcoholism – and some of them may surprise you.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, happens when you become addicted to or dependent on alcohol.
For many, it takes a significant period of heavy drinking for your body and mind to rely on alcohol. If you reach this point, you may find that alcohol – and drinking more – become the most critical parts of your life.
Alcoholism is characterized by behaviors – often negative behaviors. If you drink to the extent that your dependence causes negative consequences in your life, but you still prioritize alcohol above all else – then you may suffer from alcoholism.
Is It Different from Binge Drinking?
The answer to this question is yes and no.
Most binge drinkers aren’t alcoholics. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans drink to excess, but most of them are addicted to alcohol.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, you’re binge drinking when you consume more than four drinks a day if you’re a man or three servings a day if you’re a woman.
The key to understanding whether your binge drinking has turned into an alcohol problem is in the aftermath. If you crave alcohol and experience withdrawal when you can’t drink, then you may be alcoholic.
If you’re unsure whether binge drinking has turned into addictive drinking, don’t be afraid to ask for help sooner rather than later.
Causes of Alcoholism: What Everyone Needs to Know
Alcoholism is a devasting disease, but it could have one of several causes. Let’s go through the most common questions people have about the causes of alcoholism.
Did I Inherit My Parent’s Drinking Problem?
If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. who is a child or grandchild of an alcoholic, you may have wondered whether you’re more susceptible to alcohol use disorder.
Your genes do influence your likelihood of developing alcoholism, but they’re not the only factor.
However, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the effect of these genes is complicated.
Some genes increase risk while others decrease it. Moreover, some genes work directly while others work indirectly. For example, those of Asian descent may carry a variant of a gene that indirectly impacts their rate of alcoholism. If they have the gene, they experience unpleasant symptoms like rapid heartbeat, flushing, and nausea when they consume alcohol.
Because having a drink is so unpleasant, they’re at low risk for developing alcoholism. It’s unlikely they’ll develop the patterns or lifestyle habits that may increase their chances of dependence.
The study of genetics as one of the causes of alcoholism is still in its infancy. You can learn more from the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), which has been studying the subject to identify the exact genes involved since 1989.
Genes Also Impact Treatment
There’s no one cure-all for alcoholism in part because your genes also impact how you respond to treatments.
For example, the prescription naltrexone is used to treat some patients with alcohol use disorder to limit their drinking. But not all patients respond to the intervention. Indeed, the patients who do respond well often have a specific variation in a gene that’s missing in the patients who aren’t helped by the treatment.
The bottom line: carrying certain genes may impact how you respond to alcohol and treatments, but they don’t guarantee you will or won’t become alcoholic.
Is My Addiction in My Brain Chemistry?
We know that addiction is both biological and neurological, but is your brain and body already hardwired to become addicted to substances?
The answer is both yes and no.
Addiction is a tricky fellow that takes over your brain. Addictive substances like alcohol and drugs influence your brain in three important ways. They cause you to:
- Crave alcohol
- Lose control of your use of alcohol
- Continue to need it even when it hurts you
Alcohol teaches your brain to say yes, which makes it very difficult to “just say no.”
Scientists believe one of the causes of this occurs when you’re binge drinking.
When you’ve had four or six drinks in one session, the neurons in your brain circuits that control alcohol addiction become enclosed in a protein called perineuronal net.
Perineuronal nets essentially trap your neurons and keep them in a circuit that your brain may not be able to shake off. That’s why some of the latest alcohol dependence pharmaceuticals are targeted to impacting the way neurotransmitters signal between neurons, but they don’t work because of perineuronal nets.
In essence, you may not have an ‘addictive personality.’ However, alcohol triggers changes in your brain’s neurons that drive you towards addiction.
How Your Lifestyle Plays a Role
Genes and the interaction between your brain and alcohol may predispose you to alcohol addiction, but most people who enjoy alcohol on a regular basis don’t become addicted.
Social and environmental issues are also found among the causes of alcoholism.
If your social life revolves around hitting the bar all weekend, every weekend, you’re at a higher risk for alcoholism.
If your best friend or romantic partner drinks on a regular basis, you’re also impacted by their choices.
Drinking too much over an extended period or binge drinking regularly can lead to alcohol use disorder on its own or potentially through the perineuronal nets discussed earlier.
Additionally, research has found that people who start drinking early in life have a higher risk of encountering alcoholism, particularly once they reach their 20s and 30s.
Ultimately, your own personal and social relationship to alcohol has a substantial impact on whether you’ll eventually become an alcoholic. Being predisposed to alcoholism through family history or existing mental health problems, it’s essential to evaluate your relationship with alcohol and other substances.
You Can Avoid the Causes of Alcoholism
The good news is that there’s no one cause of alcohol use disorder. For many, it’s a combination of factors ranging from genetic to neurological to social. Still, that doesn’t make addiction any easier to break.
Are you ready to make positive changes in your life? Contact Resurgence California today to take your life back from alcohol.