The development of alcoholism happens slowly over time. Gradual, excessive and unhealthy levels of drinking can eventually lead to alcoholism. Most experts identify the main cause of alcoholism as physical dependence on alcohol called alcohol dependence syndrome.
Though, in addition to the defined scientific causes, there are other aspects such as genetics, psychological, social and cultural factors and a person’s emotional state.
From a scientific perspective, as one continues to drink, the chemical balance in one’s brain is altered. Over time, the levels and disruption of chemicals in the brain causes the body to desire alcohol and fight off negative feelings or maintain good spirits.
Drinking affects an acid in the brain, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which controls impulsiveness and a chemical in the brain called glutamate. Another chemical in the brain, called dopamine, is also affected by heavy drinking over time. Dopamine levels in the brain are increased by drinking, and dopamine controls the pleasurable effects of alcohol on the body.
Aside from the chemical imbalance that causes alcoholism, there are other factors that may cause a person to be predisposed to alcohol addition. Genetics have shown to be a factor in alcoholism. One’s genetic makeup can make them more likely to develop alcoholism. Many people diagnosed with alcoholism have a relative or family member who also struggles with the disease. Genetics has proven to be a significant cause of the development of alcoholism.
Several psychological factors are also causes of alcoholism and can contribute to the likelihood of abusing alcohol. Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem may lead someone to be more likely to abuse alcohol. Also, spending time with people who drink excessively could cause a person’s heavy drinking, especially if they are predisposed either via a fragile emotional state or other psychological factors.
Certain stress hormones are also associated with a person’s vulnerability to alcoholism. Similarly, levels of emotional pain can also play a part in causing alcoholism in addition to the social and culture factors, which glamorise drinking and enable the mindset that excessive drinking is acceptable in today’s society.
In addition to these elements that are related to the causes of alcoholism, there are other factors related to alcohol abuse. As discussed earlier, genetics play a part in causing alcoholism, but so does age. Those who start drinking at an early age are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol.
Statistics show that those that start drinking at age 16 or earlier are more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol. Heavy drinking is classified as drinking more than 15 drinks a week for men and 12 drinks a week for women. This level of drinking has been linked to causes of alcoholism.
Studies have shown that men are more likely to develop alcoholism than women. In addition like genetics, a person’s family history can increase the likelihood of developing alcoholism. Like emotional factors, those with attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder may be predisposed to abusing alcohol.
Theories about the causes of alcoholism vary widely. However, a combination of the psychological, chemical and cultural factors can make one predisposed to developing a dependence on alcohol. Those affected by alcoholism need to seek a doctor for proper treatment of the disease, regardless of the causes of the problem.
Often people deny they have a problem or abuse alcohol, especially if surrounded by friends and family who also drink at unhealthy levels. It may take an intervention or counselling to determine the causes of your alcoholism and to design an effective, appropriate treatment plan.