A big problem in our country that does not get spoken much of us alcoholism. A staggering 17.6 million people suffer from alcoholism in America. That equates to one in every twelve adults. Most people do not fully understand alcoholism and have a very basic and simplistic idea of it in their mind. People assume alcoholism is just someone who drinks all the time. This type of thinking can be very dangerous because it does not represent how debilitating it can be for someone who suffers from alcoholism.

So what exactly is alcoholism? Alcoholism constitutes four different symptoms:

  • Craving- a strong need, or urge, to drink.
  • Loss of Control- not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  • Physical Dependence- withdrawal symptoms, such as upset stomach, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.
  • Tolerance- the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”

A Common Question: Is It Genetic?

Millions of families across the country are affected by alcoholism. Many wonder if alcoholism is a genetic trait passed down from parents or grandparents. The answer is yes and no. At first, this may confuse you. However, there is an explanation for this. Scientific studies have shown there are genetic factors that influence alcoholism. These studies suggest that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than opposed to a child of non-alcoholics. Alcoholism is just one of the many behavioral and emotional problems a child of an alcoholic parent is more likely to develop. However, just because one or even both of a child’s parents are alcoholics does not mean that child will become an alcoholic. More than one-half of all children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic. This is because genetics is not the only factor that determines whether or not someone becomes an alcoholic.

Non-genetic Factors of Alcoholism (Sociological)

Alcoholism can develop because of many other factors including low self-esteem, a high level of stress, overall environment, experiencing peer pressure, or some mental health issue. A person with low self-esteem can turn to drinking to feel better about themselves. However, drinking to feel better about one’s self is not fixing the problem and can lead to heavier and heavier drinking. People also often use alcohol to escape stress. Individuals who have a lot of stress drink to minimize the stress they feel, but this is also a very temporary fix. Once that feeling of being drunk goes away, the pressure comes right back and is just as overwhelming as before which can also lead to continuous drinking. A particularly tricky situation when it comes to alcoholism is when someone is drinking because of a mental health issue. A mental health problem like anxiety or depression can cause someone to turn to alcohol in order to ease their pain. This can be especially hard to spot at times because mental health issues can be very hard to spot. Just because a person out in public seems happy, underneath when they are alone, they can be in great pain.

Non-genetic Factors of Alcoholism (Environmental)

A person and more specifically a child is very susceptible to succumbing to their environment. For example, in families where sexual abuse, physical violence or high alcohol usage occurs a person in that family is more likely to turn to alcohol as a way to cope with that environment. Our parents teach us from a young age not to give in to peer pressure. However, we all know how hard it is to follow through on that. When a group of your friends and peers are telling you to do something we all fear not being accepted and being cast as an outsider. Even though we know we shouldn’t, it’s hard to say no. When someone starts to drink from a young age your chances of becoming alcohol dependent increase exponentially.

Steps To Prevent Alcoholism

Avoid underage drinking. First of all drinking alcohol under twenty-one years of age is illegal. Secondly, studies have shown alcoholism is greater for people who started to drink at a younger age. One of the most important step to take when you think you might be at a higher risk of suffering from alcoholism is to talk with your healthcare provider. Together you can come up with a plan to beat your addiction before it has any chance to take hold. If you do not take any of the proper steps alcoholism can become very dangerous. People who suffer from alcohol abuse often drive while drunk. In the US 40% of all fatal car crashes involve alcohol. Every 51 minutes someone in America dies from an accident involving a drunk driver, that equates to 27 people a day.