What Is Alcohol Use And/Or Addiction?
Indulging in a glass of beer or wine after a long day of work is the way many Americans choose to unwind. While having an alcoholic beverage once a day or every few days is considered moderate drinking, consuming more than a few (two to three) drinks per sitting is not.
Continuous heavy drinking, as well as binge drinking, is considered alcohol use. When a person uses alcohol over an extended period of time, he or she is at risk of developing a dependence on alcohol. Alcohol dependence is when the body needs alcohol to function normally. Without alcohol, a person may feel withdrawal symptoms as well as other negative side effects that can affect his or her everyday life and health.
When a person has a dependence on alcohol, he or she is likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD, or alcohol addiction, is when an individual continues to use alcohol despite negative consequences.
Common behaviors and symptoms associated with AUDs include:
- drinking alone
- lying about how much one drinks
- regular cravings for alcohol
- continuing to drink despite experiencing personal or professional problems
- inability to control how much one drinks
- withdrawing from friends and family in order to drink
- the need to drink more alcohol to experience the same effects (tolerance)
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- experiencing blackouts when drinking
Individuals who experience one or many of these symptoms may be dealing with an alcohol use disorder. The more symptoms a person has, the more severe his or her alcohol addiction is likely to be.
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What Are The Factors That Affect Someone’s Risk of Alcohol Use And Addiction?
Alcoholism is a disease that does not discriminate between age, gender, or race. According to a recent study, nearly 13 percent of the American population meets the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder. While anyone can develop an alcohol addiction, only an estimated one in eight Americans will. So, what causes alcoholism and how can it be prevented?
As of now, it is believed that there is no single cause of alcohol use disorders. Rather, several factors can influence a person’s risk of developing an AUD. These factors affect each individual differently, and not everyone who experiences these factors will go on to suffer from alcohol addiction.
Individuals who suffer from mental health conditions are often more likely to use or become addicted to alcohol or other substances. In fact, more than 40 percent of people with bipolar disorder and 20 percent of individuals with depression have a co-occurring alcohol use disorder. Social anxiety is also a psychological condition that can increase a person’s risk of alcohol use and addiction.
A person’s genes have one of the most significant impacts on whether someone will develop an AUD. In fact, it is believed that genetics account for an estimated 50 percent of what ultimately causes alcohol addiction. Individuals who have a biological parent with an AUD are far more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder themselves.
People who are exposed to heavy alcohol consumption at a young age are more likely to develop an AUD than those who are not. Growing up in an environment that condones alcohol use can significantly impact a person’s risk of alcohol use. Additionally, family wealth can also play a role in the development of alcohol use disorders. Individuals in homes with an income of $75,000 or more are more likely to drink than those with a family income of $30,000 or less.
Social factors can also play a significant role in a person’s likelihood of abusing or becoming addicted to alcohol. In social settings where alcohol consumption is encouraged and widely acceptable, individuals are more likely to experience alcohol addiction. One primary example is college, where heavy drinking is a common part of everyday life.
Additional factors that may influence alcohol use and addiction include:
- a person’s drinking history (a longer history of drinking can increase the risk of an AUD)
- the age at which a person begins drinking
- participation in binge drinking
- experiencing high levels of stress
- experiencing peer pressure to drink, especially at a young age
- low self-esteem
- employment factors
The more risk factors a person experiences, the more likely he or she is to use alcohol or develop an alcohol use disorder. However, it’s important to know that these risk factors do not guarantee that a person will become addicted to alcohol. Many people experience several of these factors and never go on to develop an AUD.
Getting Help For Alcohol Use And Addiction
Regardless of the risk factors that influenced a person’s addiction to alcohol, getting help is possible and the best decision a person with an AUD can make. There are several different options available for individuals looking to overcome alcohol dependence and addiction. Vertava Health offers a variety of alcohol addiction treatments for both men and women. All of our programs are customized to meet the unique needs of each person who walks through our doors.
To learn more about the factors that influence alcohol use and addiction, contact an Vertava Health’ treatment specialist today.