Patient education

Causes of alcoholism and alcohol abuse PRINT BACK

Alcoholism is not a moral weakness, but an inborn part of body chemistry that can be inherited. However, inheriting this vulnerability does not necessarily determine one’s destiny.

It is well established that alcoholism tends to run in families. Genetic factors partially explain this. Environmental factors also significantly influence whether or not an alcohol disorder will manifest itself. Environmental factors such as the influence of friends, stress levels and ease and acceptability of obtaining alcohol may contribute to the possibility or probability that one will develop an alcohol disorder. Other factors may help to protect the same person from an alcohol disorder.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are preventable. Only the tendency is inherited. Education, awareness of causes and outcomes of alcohol disorders, as well as early interventions when a problem is identified, are keys to success in preventing alcohol-related disorders, as well as effectively treating the problem.

Identifying the early signs of alcohol misuse

A few simple questions can help to determine if your alcohol use may be unhealthy. Ask:

  • Am I drinking more than I used to?
  • Once I start drinking, am I unable to stop?
  • Do I get irritated when I am in a place where I can't drink?
  • Do I continue to drink despite negative consequences?

Answering yes to even one of these questions suggests that your alcohol use may be problematic. Seek help. If you answered no to the preceding questions, it may be that you do not have a problem. Not everyone who drinks regularly has a drinking problem. However, you should also strongly consider getting help if you:

  • Drink to calm your nerves, forget your worries or reduce depression.
  • Have lost interest in food.
  • Gulp down your drinks fast.
  • Lie or try to hide drinking habits.
  • Drink alone more often.
  • Hurt yourself or someone else because of drinking.
  • Were drunk more than three or four times last year.
  • Need alcohol to relieve anxiety or feel better.
  • Feel irritable, resentful or unreasonable when you are not drinking.
  • Have medical, social or financial problems caused by drinking.

Do not let myth stand in the way of seeking help. Alcoholism is a disease, no more a sign of weakness than asthma or diabetes. See your doctor. Reach out for help in the community.



This article is for your information only. It is not meant to give medical advice. It should not be used to replace a visit with a provider. Magellan does not endorse other resources that may be mentioned here.