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Alcohol Use Disorder (or AUD) is a disease where an individual becomes dependent on alcohol consumption.

It is a disease that does not have one specific cause and is diagnosed based on an evaluation of a person’s behaviour and habits associated with alcohol.

There have been many studies over the years that have sought to determine what brings about this particular dependency.

And these studies have shown that alcoholism is a result of various risk factors, which we will go over in the following text.

Biological risk factors

The first “category” of risk factors we will go over is the “biological” category. Studies show that an individual’s genetics and physiology can often play a huge role in whether or not they could develop AUD.

1. Family history

If your family has a significant history of alcoholism spanning through generations, then you have a higher risk of developing AUD.

Basically, if close family members such as your parents, grandparents, and so on, suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder, then you likely have some genes from them that make it more likely that you’ll develop an alcohol problem as well.

That being said, there is not one specific gene that increases the risk. Studies have found that, in various chromosome regions, there are up to 51 various genes that could lead to Alcohol Use Disorder.

2. Through genetics or just the individual’s brain alone, chemical factors can lead to AUD

When a behaviour or action evokes a pleasurable chemical response, then the brain naturally wants to repeat that behaviour or action.

And for many, alcohol consumption evokes a pleasurable chemical response. When done in moderation, this is not a bad thing.

However, those who are genetically predisposed to developing AUD, or those who simply have a tendency to overdo things, are more likely to give in to the urge to drink in an excessive manner.

They experience a positive feeling from drinking, and their brain wants more and more of it.

Eventually, their brain will become dependent on alcohol to create those “happy chemicals,” which will then lead to terrible withdrawal symptoms if the person does not drink.

Social and environmental risk factors

Along with the aforementioned genetic factors, a person could be driven to developing AUD based on the people they associate with and the environment that surrounds them.

Peer pressure commonly affects teenagers and young adults. However, it can affect anybody at any age, and can often be what pushes people into what becomes an addiction.

For instance, if you’re attending a party or social gathering where people are drinking, then you will likely have an urge to join in.

This results in the pleasurable chemical reaction, and, along with the aforementioned biological factors, could lead to you getting hooked on the habit.

If you grew up in a home where a parent, sibling, or other family members in the household had an alcohol problem, then you have a higher chance of developing that problem yourself.

Not just due to genetics, but due to the environmental influence of growing up around alcohol abuse.

Perhaps the experience caused you trauma, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that might tempt you to turn to alcohol as a way to cope.

Or perhaps, in a way, alcohol consumption, (even excessive consumption,) was normalised for you.

In any case, a person’s family has a big impact on their risk factors for Alcohol Use Disorder, based on both biological factors and social/environmental factors.

There is no doubt that we are almost constantly bombarded with advertising. And advertising for alcoholic beverages is no exception.

These ads often give off the impression that drinking is a fun, relaxing, harmless activity.

This portrayal could have an effect on our subconscious that encourages us to drink in order to obtain those promised feelings of relaxation and happiness.

And this could especially urge us to drink if we are dealing with a stressful situation. Along with these advertisements, different forms of media often portray drinking alcohol as a normal way of coping with stress.

And alcoholism will often be portrayed in a lighthearted, comedic manner, which could cause some people to subconsciously downplay the severity of its real-life counterpart.

Essentially, alcohol is often portrayed as something that is not dangerous. Something that will help you relax and unwind.

And if someone has a desire to destress, chances are they will end up turning to alcohol as a result of those portrayals giving them a subliminal message that they will not develop an addiction.

Psychological factors

These factors are often the leading cause of AUD and are frequently the result of aforementioned issues such as a family history of alcoholism or living in a negative environment.

1. Suffering from mental health

Mental health issues often lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. And one of the most common, unfortunately, is substance abuse, particularly alcoholism.

As mentioned in a previous section, alcohol often causes a pleasurable chemical reaction which your brain will want to repeat. And if you suffer from a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, then the urge might be even stronger.

People who deal with mental health disorder often seek alcohol for comfort for various reasons. Perhaps they want to gain positive feelings that they believe nothing else will bring about.

Perhaps they want to numb any psychological torment. Or perhaps it is a mix of both. In any case, mental health issues are a key factor in what brings about alcohol abuse.

2. Even if someone is dealing with “normal” stress, they could still seek out alcohol as a coping method

Perhaps you are dealing with stress from a particular set of circumstances rather than an underlying mental health issue.

Maybe something like a significant relationship problem, an overwhelming/frustrating workplace, or an issue within your family is causing you a great deal of stress.

In any case, you might feel tempted to turn to alcohol to try and relieve those stressful feelings.

Factors leading to relapse

Even after going through rehab and being sober for a while, a person who was once addicted is almost always at risk of a relapse.

Staying sober is a lifelong challenge, but it is worthwhile. Keep in mind that, even if you have a relapse, you have not failed on your journey.

Stumbling does not mean that you should give up and fall into old habits. Keep pushing forward, and try to avoid certain factors that could lead to a severe relapse.

1. Being around another drinker

Maybe you used to go drinking with a group of people who encouraged you to do so. Or perhaps you have met some new people while being sober who drink frequently.

In either case, those people could urge you to drink, intentionally or otherwise.

It would be best to have little to no in-person interaction with the people who could encourage you to drink again. Sometimes, we have to cut people off in our lives who are negative influences.

These people are a negative influence that could cause you to fall back into an old lifestyle.

If you know some new people who drink recreationally, it would be best to simply not be around them when they’re going to be drinking.

If you politely inform them of your situation, they will likely be understanding and not drink around you.

2. Highly stressful situations might tempt you to drink again

It is possible to avoid unnecessary stress. However, oftentimes, we cannot control whether or not a stressful circumstance occurs in our lives.

If you used to use alcohol to cope, then chances are you might feel a temptation to drink again once you become stressed. Remember that alcohol will only cause you more stress in the long run.

Turn to friends, family, and anyone else in your support system when you are dealing with stress, and remember healthy coping mechanisms that you have learned along the way.

Conclusion

There is no singular factor that leads to alcoholism. There are a plethora of risk factors that make it more likely for someone to develop an addiction.

If you are at high risk, it would be best to avoid drinking altogether. And if you are a recovering alcoholic, there are various factors that could trigger a relapse.

Remember to stay strong, turn to your support system, and place your focus on healthy coping mechanisms.

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To discover your road to recovery, call us today on 0800 140 4690.