What causes someone to be an alcoholic? Well, there is no easy answer. Alcoholism has many causes and can be influenced by many different factors.
From the disease model to strength-based approaches, there are many theories about what causes a drinking problem and how it can best be treated. Read on to learn more about what makes alcohol addictive.
The Disease of Addiction
The disease model of addiction tells us that alcoholism is a progressive disease. This theory relies heavily on the view of alcoholism as a biological illness.
Many treatment approaches, such as 12 step recovery, hinge on this model. Once the addict has become addicted, biological processes create the desire for more.
The brain, it seems, becomes hardwired to seek out the addictive substance. This desire may seem ill-informed to outsiders. Addicts will repeatedly choose short term rewards despite the long term consequences.
Treatment models may include a drinking problem rehab or 12 step meetings.
Leading researchers such as Johann Hari and Dr. Gabor Mate stress the link between alcoholism and childhood trauma. Alcohol and drugs are viewed as a ‘friend’ to the addict. This relationship always produces a stable and predictable outcome.
In the absence of stability and love, alcohol and drugs can fill the void created by childhood trauma. Advocates for this understanding stress a harm reduction model for treatment. This can include a strength-based approach that meets the addict “where they are.”
If the family of origin has other members who are alcoholics, the risk of alcoholism increases. This is a matter of both nature and nurture. Scientific research has proven that there are genetic components to alcoholism as well.
While a child may be nurtured in an environment that normalizes excessive drinking, there is proof that children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics even if they aren’t raised by an alcoholic parent.
An Early Start
Children who begin using alcohol early in life are at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics. There are many explanations for this, including the risk of increased tolerance and the impact of alcohol on the child’s brain. While wine may be good for the body of an adult, the same can’t be said for a brain that is still developing.
If a child isn’t receiving adequate supervision, the child may also be experiencing neglect. Neglect and child abuse are also two factors Dr. Mate and Johann Hari address in their harm reduction model.
Mental Health Disorders
Scientific research has proven that people who suffer from mental illness are more likely predisposed to becoming substance dependent. This is often because the addict will attempt to self-medicate themselves.
Using alcohol or drugs to self-regulate may not be uncommon, but there is good news. Better treatments for these conditions already exist and skilled treatment facilities are well-versed in treating comorbid disorders.
What Makes Alcohol Addictive?
There are many understandings of addiction and even more documented factors that contribute to it. What makes alcohol addictive is only the beginning.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to get help.
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