Alcoholism, formally classified as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), directly affects more than 15 million Americans to varying degrees. This figure does not include the families, friends, and loved ones of alcoholics whose lives are also impacted by AUD. Many wonder whether AUD could have been avoided, or if a person’s genetics or environment led them down an inevitable path. AUD has many causes, ranging from the environmental and social to genetic and psychological factors.
The Role of Genetics in AUD
Genetics play a role in addiction, with AUD frequently running in families. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that genetics account for roughly half of an individual’s risk for developing AUD. Multiple genes can make an individual more or less likely to experience AUD, such as one that alters the rate at which a person’s body can metabolize alcohol.
While genetics play a role in AUD, they do not directly determine whether someone develops AUD. Those who have relatives in their family with AUD should not feel they are destined to become alcoholics. Regardless of genetics, there are many factors under their control that can help them avoid or recover from AUD.
Social and Environmental Causes of AUD
Social and environmental factors often play a significant role in the development of AUD. Being surrounded by people who encourage dangerous forms of drinking, such as binge drinking at parties, can put one at risk for developing AUD. Likewise, friends and loved ones who support one’s goal of sobriety and discourage alcohol use can make a huge difference in preventing AUD or aiding in one’s recovery from it. Importantly, studies have shown that genetic and environmental interactions that influence alcohol intake “may be more robust at younger ages.” These studies demonstrate that young people must be careful of their social surroundings and drinking practices since youth is a vulnerable period for developing unhealthy drinking habits.
Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health
Psychological and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, may increase one’s risk for developing AUD. Many people drink to avoid painful or difficult feelings caused by such conditions, or to escape past traumas.
The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that personality traits, such as “impulsiveness, low self-esteem and a need for approval,” often lead to dangerous drinking. The APA further notes that once such drinking patterns emerge, people may develop a tolerance to alcohol and begin to abuse the substance further to avoid the resulting alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Professional Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders
Regardless of the circumstances that lead one to develop AUD, recovery is still achievable through professional alcohol rehab. While one’s genetics, environment, or social group may increase the risk of problem drinking or use disorders, they do not make a life of addiction inevitable. Professional help through therapy, step work, and other treatments can help alcoholics find the support and recovery strategies they need.
Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers a spectrum of care for AUD and other substance abuse disorders, from medically-supervised detox to inpatient drug rehab to sober living facilities. With unique treatment programs based on a combination of 12-step work and clinical modalities, our drug and alcohol treatment centers’ caring and professional team will help you or your loved one develop an individualized treatment and recovery plan that gives you the tools needed for lasting sobriety.