Who Is at Risk for an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Reviewed Aug 31, 2017

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Summary

  • Family history
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Social and cultural factors

It has been said that alcohol use disorder can happen to anyone. It’s true. There is no such thing as a typical drunk person. Over the years many labels have been used to categorize those with a drinking problem as people who lack self-control or morality. For decades these labels have kept people from getting help. However, while it is true that alcohol overuse happens at every level of our society, some people are more at risk than others. Knowing the facts is a good way to stop a problem. 

Family history

Alcohol problems tend to run in families. For example, a male with a parent with an alcohol use disorder is nearly three times more likely to develop one himself. Experts now believe that some children of persons with alcohol use disorder inherit a genetic trait, which adds to the chance that they will have a problem.

These genetic differences may alter the effect of alcohol. Some people have a very high tolerance level. For others, a little drinking seems to change their personality very quickly.

Persistent drinking

When someone first begins to drink they most often feel the buzz after consuming one or two drinks. But after several months of regular drinking, it may take twice as much alcohol to feel that way. This results in heavier drinking and can lead to alcohol overuse or dependence. But you don’t have to be a “problem drinker” to harm yourself. Over time, even drinking in moderation makes your body work very hard. It also hurts the liver and other organs.

Age

People who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to overuse alcohol. Many Americans begin experimenting with alcohol before age 13. With age comes wisdom and responsibility. When you think about the difference in maturity between a 13-year-old and a 21-year-old you can see why early drinking leads to big problems. People who do not drink until they are at least 18 are less likely to have problems with alcohol in the future.

Gender

Men are much more likely to overuse alcohol than women. However, the rate of alcohol use disorder in women has been on the rise. It tends to happen later in life. Women are more likely to have health problems linked to drinking, such as liver disease.

Depression and other mental health problems

People with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are more likely to overuse alcohol. Experts have found that 30 percent to 40 percent of people with depression or anxiety disorders also have an alcohol use disorder.

Social and cultural factors

Alcohol problems are more usual in some cultures than in others. Rates of alcohol overuse are high in Europe and the United States where alcohol use is widely found and socially OK.

In American culture, alcohol is often used to socialize and lower stress. Some religious groups, such as Mormons, Muslims, and Southern Baptists believe they should not drink. Alcohol use disorder is rare in any group where going without is the norm.

In contrast, high rates of alcohol overuse are widely found in groups with easy access to it. Having friends who drink regularly also adds to the risk. The way that drinking is often portrayed in the media sends the message that you are better if you drink.

Know the facts and get help

A risk factor is anything that adds to your chance of getting an illness or condition. If you have any of the risk factors mentioned above and are worried about your drinking, talk with someone about it. If you need help, get it.

Resources

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
www.madd.org

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
http://ncadd.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Carson RC, Butcher JN, Mineka S. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. 11th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2000. Module 10H: Ethnicity, culture, and alcohol. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Social/Module10HEthnicity&Culture/Module10H.html.
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Family history
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Social and cultural factors

It has been said that alcohol use disorder can happen to anyone. It’s true. There is no such thing as a typical drunk person. Over the years many labels have been used to categorize those with a drinking problem as people who lack self-control or morality. For decades these labels have kept people from getting help. However, while it is true that alcohol overuse happens at every level of our society, some people are more at risk than others. Knowing the facts is a good way to stop a problem. 

Family history

Alcohol problems tend to run in families. For example, a male with a parent with an alcohol use disorder is nearly three times more likely to develop one himself. Experts now believe that some children of persons with alcohol use disorder inherit a genetic trait, which adds to the chance that they will have a problem.

These genetic differences may alter the effect of alcohol. Some people have a very high tolerance level. For others, a little drinking seems to change their personality very quickly.

Persistent drinking

When someone first begins to drink they most often feel the buzz after consuming one or two drinks. But after several months of regular drinking, it may take twice as much alcohol to feel that way. This results in heavier drinking and can lead to alcohol overuse or dependence. But you don’t have to be a “problem drinker” to harm yourself. Over time, even drinking in moderation makes your body work very hard. It also hurts the liver and other organs.

Age

People who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to overuse alcohol. Many Americans begin experimenting with alcohol before age 13. With age comes wisdom and responsibility. When you think about the difference in maturity between a 13-year-old and a 21-year-old you can see why early drinking leads to big problems. People who do not drink until they are at least 18 are less likely to have problems with alcohol in the future.

Gender

Men are much more likely to overuse alcohol than women. However, the rate of alcohol use disorder in women has been on the rise. It tends to happen later in life. Women are more likely to have health problems linked to drinking, such as liver disease.

Depression and other mental health problems

People with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are more likely to overuse alcohol. Experts have found that 30 percent to 40 percent of people with depression or anxiety disorders also have an alcohol use disorder.

Social and cultural factors

Alcohol problems are more usual in some cultures than in others. Rates of alcohol overuse are high in Europe and the United States where alcohol use is widely found and socially OK.

In American culture, alcohol is often used to socialize and lower stress. Some religious groups, such as Mormons, Muslims, and Southern Baptists believe they should not drink. Alcohol use disorder is rare in any group where going without is the norm.

In contrast, high rates of alcohol overuse are widely found in groups with easy access to it. Having friends who drink regularly also adds to the risk. The way that drinking is often portrayed in the media sends the message that you are better if you drink.

Know the facts and get help

A risk factor is anything that adds to your chance of getting an illness or condition. If you have any of the risk factors mentioned above and are worried about your drinking, talk with someone about it. If you need help, get it.

Resources

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
www.madd.org

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
http://ncadd.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Carson RC, Butcher JN, Mineka S. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. 11th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2000. Module 10H: Ethnicity, culture, and alcohol. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Social/Module10HEthnicity&Culture/Module10H.html.
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Family history
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Social and cultural factors

It has been said that alcohol use disorder can happen to anyone. It’s true. There is no such thing as a typical drunk person. Over the years many labels have been used to categorize those with a drinking problem as people who lack self-control or morality. For decades these labels have kept people from getting help. However, while it is true that alcohol overuse happens at every level of our society, some people are more at risk than others. Knowing the facts is a good way to stop a problem. 

Family history

Alcohol problems tend to run in families. For example, a male with a parent with an alcohol use disorder is nearly three times more likely to develop one himself. Experts now believe that some children of persons with alcohol use disorder inherit a genetic trait, which adds to the chance that they will have a problem.

These genetic differences may alter the effect of alcohol. Some people have a very high tolerance level. For others, a little drinking seems to change their personality very quickly.

Persistent drinking

When someone first begins to drink they most often feel the buzz after consuming one or two drinks. But after several months of regular drinking, it may take twice as much alcohol to feel that way. This results in heavier drinking and can lead to alcohol overuse or dependence. But you don’t have to be a “problem drinker” to harm yourself. Over time, even drinking in moderation makes your body work very hard. It also hurts the liver and other organs.

Age

People who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to overuse alcohol. Many Americans begin experimenting with alcohol before age 13. With age comes wisdom and responsibility. When you think about the difference in maturity between a 13-year-old and a 21-year-old you can see why early drinking leads to big problems. People who do not drink until they are at least 18 are less likely to have problems with alcohol in the future.

Gender

Men are much more likely to overuse alcohol than women. However, the rate of alcohol use disorder in women has been on the rise. It tends to happen later in life. Women are more likely to have health problems linked to drinking, such as liver disease.

Depression and other mental health problems

People with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are more likely to overuse alcohol. Experts have found that 30 percent to 40 percent of people with depression or anxiety disorders also have an alcohol use disorder.

Social and cultural factors

Alcohol problems are more usual in some cultures than in others. Rates of alcohol overuse are high in Europe and the United States where alcohol use is widely found and socially OK.

In American culture, alcohol is often used to socialize and lower stress. Some religious groups, such as Mormons, Muslims, and Southern Baptists believe they should not drink. Alcohol use disorder is rare in any group where going without is the norm.

In contrast, high rates of alcohol overuse are widely found in groups with easy access to it. Having friends who drink regularly also adds to the risk. The way that drinking is often portrayed in the media sends the message that you are better if you drink.

Know the facts and get help

A risk factor is anything that adds to your chance of getting an illness or condition. If you have any of the risk factors mentioned above and are worried about your drinking, talk with someone about it. If you need help, get it.

Resources

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
www.madd.org

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
http://ncadd.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Carson RC, Butcher JN, Mineka S. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. 11th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2000. Module 10H: Ethnicity, culture, and alcohol. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Social/Module10HEthnicity&Culture/Module10H.html.
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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