Causes of alcoholism or alcohol dependence?
Alcoholism is a gradual process which can take from a few years to several decades to become a problem - with some very vulnerable people addiction can come in a question of months. Eventually, over time, regular alcohol consumption can disrupt the BALANCE of the brain chemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which controls impulsiveness, as well as glutamate, which stimulates the nervous system. Brain levels of dopamine are raised when we consume alcohol - dopamine levels may make the drinking experience more gratifying. Over the long- or medium-term, excessive drinking can significantly alter the levels of these brain chemicals, making the person's body crave alcohol in order to feel good and avoid feeling bad.
These risk factors may also be linked to causes of alcoholism and excessive drinking:
- Genes - scientists say there are specific genetic factors which may make some people more likely to become addicted to alcohol, as well as other substances. People who have a family history of addiction are at higher risk for abusing alcohol. Alcoholics are six times more likely than nonalcoholic to have blood relatives who are alcohol dependent. Researchers from the Universidad de Granada, Spain, revealed that "the lack of endorphin is hereditary, and thus that there is a genetic predisposition to become addicted to alcohol".
- The age of first alcoholic drink - a study found that people who started drinking alcohol before the age of 15 were much more likely to have an alcohol problem later in life.
Underage drinking in the USA is common - 26.6% of Americans under the legal age for alcohol consumption are drinking, a new report issued by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES) informed in a new report.
The authors explained that although some progress had been made in the short term to reduce underage drinking, especially among children aged up to 17 years, underage drinking rates are still excessively high in the USA.
Of the 12-20 year olds who said they had drunk alcohol during the previous four weeks, 8.7% had bought it themselves.
Pamela S. Hyde, an AMHSA Administrator, said:
"Underage drinking should not be a normal part of growing up. It's a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger. Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death."
- Smoking, especially non-daily smokers - A study by Yale University researchers found that non-daily smokers are five times more likely to have a problem with alcohol compared to people who have never smoked.
- Easy access - Experts say there is a correlation between easy access to alcohol (cheap prices) and alcohol abuse and alcohol-related deaths. A US study found a strong link between alcohol tax increases in 1983 and 2002 and a significant drop in deaths related to alcohol use in one American state - the effect was found to be nearly two to four times that of other prevention strategies such as school PROGRAMS or media campaigns.
- Stress - some stress hormones are linked to alcoholism. If our levels of stress, anxiety are high some of us may consume alcohol in an attempt to blank out the upheaval. Military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorders simultaneously, according to researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Peer drinking - people who have friends who drink regularly or abuse alcohol are more likely to drink excessively and eventually have an alcohol problem.
- Low self-esteem - experts say that people with low self-esteem who have alcohol readily available are more likely to abuse it.
- Depression - people with depression may deliberately or unwittingly use alcohol as a means of self-treatment. On the other hand, a statistical modeling study suggested that alcohol abuse may lead to depression risk, rather than vice versa.
- Media and advertising - in some countries alcohol is portrayed as a glamorous, worldly and cool activity. Many experts believe that alcohol advertising and media coverage of it may convey the message that excessive drinking is acceptable. The Royal College of Physicians is asking for a European Union ban on alcohol advertising to protect children.
- How the body processes (metabolizes) alcohol - people who need comparatively more alcohol to achieve an effect have a higher risk of eventually having an alcohol problem, a study carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found.