There’s the stereotypical alcoholic in television shows and movies who is portrayed as the “villain” or screw up – and then there’s people in real life who struggle with alcoholism. These people come from all walks of life, including young adults still in school, mothers of small children, celebrities and corporate executives. This may even include your spouse, parent, child or sibling.
Alcohol addiction doesn’t discriminate, which means anyone can fall victim to the disease. However, there are a range of factors that make some people more likely than others to become addicted to alcohol.
What Makes Someone More Likely to Become an Alcoholic?
As you wait for your loved one to stumble home from the bar or watch them pass out on the couch, you may ask yourself this one question: Why? Why do they struggle with alcohol abuse? You can cut yourself off after a glass of wine, so why can’t they stop themselves?
It isn’t that your loved one isn’t aware of what excessive amounts of alcohol can do to them. It’s just that there’s something that’s driving them to drink; something they can’t explain.
Fortunately, science may have the answer and move us closer to understanding who is more likely to become an alcoholic. In a recent study, scientists found that rats who became addicted to alcohol had an impaired brain mechanism that, when functioning properly, clears away GABA – a substance that inhibits signaling around brain cells in the amygdala. These results were similar to what has been found in postmortem brain tissue of humans who suffered from alcohol abuse.
When the researchers dug deeper, they found that a gene may be responsible for this impairment in brain function. This gene is responsible for coding a protein called GAT-3, whose primary function is clearing away GABA from brain cells. The brains of the alcohol-motivated rats and the people who had struggled with alcoholism when alive all had lower levels of the GAT-3 gene, suggesting more of this gene is needed to control desires to drink.
Based on this research, it’s possible that people who have a deficit of the GAT-3 gene are more likely to become addicted to alcohol. Genetic testing may be able to help determine if this gene or a range of others play a role in your loved one’s alcoholism.
Other Factors that Can Make Someone an Alcoholic
Of course, genetics isn’t the only factor that can determine who becomes addicted to alcohol and who doesn’t. More often than not, it’s a matter of both nature and nurture. While genetics certainly play a significant role, there is oftentimes a trigger; an environmental factor in an individual’s life that leads them to alcohol.
Some of these factors may include:
- Trauma. From car accidents and natural disasters to sexual abuse or violence, traumatic events can cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. If your loved one has struggled with a past trauma, they may have tried to ease their anxiety and fear with alcohol. If they already had genetic markers for alcoholism, their trauma made it even more likely that they’d struggle with alcohol abuse.
- Peer Pressure. Sometimes it isn’t something as traumatic as a violent attack or accident. In some cases, even just being pressured to drink in a public setting can be the steppingstone towards addiction – especially if there are already genetic factors at play behind the scenes. Anyone who is regularly pressured or encouraged by friends or colleagues to drink can be at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
- High Amounts of Stress. Business leaders, performers and anyone in high-stress careers can be at a greater risk of alcohol abuse. If your loved one fits into this category, they may have originally used alcohol to take the edge off during a tight deadline or before an important presentation or performance. High amounts of stress and anxiety can be enough to trigger an addiction, especially for those who are genetically prone to substance abuse.
No matter someone’s financial wealth, prestige, family or talents, anyone can struggle with alcohol abuse as a result of genetic and environmental factors. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to recover from addiction. No matter why your loved one has become an alcoholic, proper addiction treatment can help them recover.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment at The Raleigh House
No matter who your loved one is, we can help them overcome their alcohol addiction. At our retreat-style lodge just outside of Denver, we offer a tranquil and private environment where your loved one can get away from their everyday life and focus on recovery. Through evidence-based treatments and experiential therapies, we will help your loved one better understand their addiction, discover why they struggled so hard to stop drinking and develop healthy ways of managing their triggers.
If your loved one needs alcohol addiction treatment, they’ll be in good hands at The Raleigh House. Contact our admissions team today to learn how to get them started.