Understanding Alcohol Addiction: Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment and Recovery

According to Harvard Health, Alcohol addiction is the most common form of substance abuse after tobacco. However, alcohol addiction isn’t an easy one to understand. 

What leads a person from that one occasional drink at a party or a first time drinking with friends to a full-blown addiction? What causes alcohol addiction? Why are some people more affected than others, and what is the best alcohol addiction treatment? Unfortunately, there are no clear answers.

There is no specific cause or reason for alcohol dependence or abuse. In fact, science suggests that a combination of psychological, genetic, environmental, and social factors contribute to the problem. Below are some of the plausible risk factors associated with alcoholism.


Different psychological factors may increase the chances of heavy drinking. Behavioral traits and how each person handles the situation are unique. For instance, many people who are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues may take to alcohol to relax and unwind. Alcohol helps them suppress those feelings and forget about issues for a while. 

Of course, not everybody takes to alcohol to unwind and distress. Those who do have higher chances of developing a dependence on it at some stage. It’s suggested to unwind with healthy methods like reading, spending time with family and friends, or doing whatever they like doing.

Drinking at an Early Age

Studies reveal that a person that begins drinking at an early age is more likely to have a physical dependence on alcohol than those who start drinking much later. That’s because it becomes a habit, and their body’s tolerance level increases over time.

Psychological Issues 

People having issues like anxiety, depression, and Bipolar disorders are more prone to alcohol abuse. That’s because it is easy to turn to alcohol or any other substance when one is feeling depressed or anxious as alcohol provides temporary relief from anxiety. This can lead them to drink more and turn to alcohol whenever they’re feeling anxious, ultimately leading to addiction.

Peer Pressure

When a partner or a close friend drinks, you’d naturally be more inclined to join them. This can lead to drinking problems down the road because everybody’s minds and bodies work differently and react differently to different substances.

Frequent Consumption over a While 

When a person frequently drinks for a long period, the chances of becoming dependent on it also increase. Gradually the amount of alcohol also increases with consumption because the body develops a tolerance to it. This essentially means that the body needs more alcohol to feel the same effects that they earlier used to feel with less. 

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

When you can’t control how much you should drink or have trouble with your emotions when you are not drinking, it is a problem, and it’s called Alcohol addiction. Simply cutting back isn’t enough or isn’t as easy as it sounds. Families and friends often force you down the road and keep you from drinking, saying willpower is enough to solve it. 

Trying to treat alcohol addiction with motivation and willpower alone is like treating a heart problem with cheerful thoughts. It isn’t enough.

That’s because alcohol causes changes in the brain that makes it hard to quit. That is why it is treated as a medical condition. Various alcohol addiction treatment options are available for people addicted. The options include visiting a doctor or physician, counselor or therapist, detox, and rehabilitation centers. 

There are different support groups as well that one can join. They are led by a group of people who are dealing with or have dealt with similar problems. Peers often offer better understanding and advice in these conditions than any family member, friend, or a doctor.

The Road Ahead

It is important to note that there is no permanent cure for alcohol addiction. The treatment and medications are only designed to help you with the withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment can help ease those symptoms while medications help lower your craving for alcohol and make you never want to drink. Nevertheless, the road to recovery is a long and arduous one. There’s no saying how long it will take. 

A lot of people relapse or take to drinking again after being in recovery for some time. It all depends on how well the mind and body respond to the treatment. 

But, like all other problems, the first and foremost thing is to get the addict to accept that they have pain in the first place. Once that happens, the road ahead can be relatively smooth.