Many people drink, but only about 5-6 percent suffer from alcohol addiction. Why? What makes the difference?
Genetics, environment, mental health, and drinking patterns all play a role in whether someone will develop an addiction to alcohol. Everyone has the potential for addiction, but some are more predisposed to the disease than others. Keep in mind that genetics only make up 50% of the risk of alcoholism and not everyone with a family history of addiction will develop the disease themselves.
While each person is different, alcohol use disorder tends to develop in stages. You might start drinking to relax or get a “buzz.” If this continues, you’ll develop tolerance, meaning that more alcohol will be needed to produce the same effect. Increased tolerance may lead to heavier drinking, which will lead to consequences like blackouts, withdrawal from friends and family, and troubles with relationships and work. At this point, you may drink as a form of self-medication, to relieve the stress, anxiety, depression that have been caused by these troubles. Eventually, as tolerance continues to increase, you’ll become physically dependent, meaning that when you stop drinking you’ll have withdrawal symptoms as the body rebels against the absence of the alcohol it has come to rely on. Addiction occurs when a person is both physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. You no longer get pleasure from drinking; you drink to avoid pain. You want to stop, but you are unable to.
Alcohol use disorder self-assessment tests are available to help you determine whether you or a loved one might be developing an alcohol dependence or addiction.
We’ve listed one of these tests, from VeryWellMind, verbatim below.
- Do you sometimes drink more than you planned to drink?
- Have you ever tried to quit drinking and were unsuccessful?
- Do you spend a lot of time drinking or thinking about your next drink?
- Do you ever get an urge to drink or a craving for alcohol?
- Do you often miss work or school or obligations at home due to drinking?
- Has your drinking negatively affected your social or family relationships?
- Have you given up hobbies or activities you used to enjoy in order to drink?
- Does your drinking ever put you in dangerous situations?
- Has drinking caused you any persistent health problems, including anxiety or depression?
- Do you have to drink more alcohol to get the same desired effects?
- When you go without alcohol, do you get withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea or sweating?
If you answered ‘yes’ to four or more questions, you may have a moderate to several alcohol use disorder. If so, you are not alone. Many individuals have found lasting sobriety and wellness through treatment. Accredited treatment facilities offer medically supervised detox followed by residential or outpatient treatment. They can help you or your loved one uncover the root of your alcohol use and develop healthy coping mechanisms for handling stress, emotions, and any underlying mental health issues that may exacerbate your substance use.