Alcoholism is a complex mental disease and the result of alcohol dependence. For decades, researchers have studied why one person develops an alcohol use disorder while others don’t. They’ve learned there are many causes of alcoholism.

Causes of AlcoholismA man with his head in hands wondering the causes of alcoholism

Dozens of risk factors can lead to alcohol use disorder development. Simply having these risk factors, however, doesn’t guarantee that someone develops alcoholism. However, learning about the most common causes can make many aware of their risk so they can take preventative measures.

Ongoing Drinking

Drinking regularly is a major risk factor for developing alcohol problems. For example, binge and heavy drinking change the chemical balance in the brain. Eventually, people lose their ability to control how much and how often they drink.

Binge drinking occurs when women have at least four drinks on a single occasion at least one day in a month. For men, a binge involves at least five drinks. Experts say that heavy drinking occurs when people binge five or more days in a month.


It might surprise some to learn that their genetics could increase their risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Overall, this factor has the biggest influence on who develops the disease.

The genetics behind it are very complex, and experts don’t fully understand it yet. The reason is that multiple genes interact to cause the problem. Researchers have found at least 51 genes that put people at risk. However, not all of them have to be present for the disease to develop.


People’s living environments play a role as well. Generally, people are more likely to develop drinking problems based on how frequently alcohol is in their everyday lives. For example, it’s easier and less expensive to obtain alcohol in certain states, which may increase the risk. Additionally, wealthier families are more likely to have a history of alcoholism than lower-income families.

Mental Health Problems

Mental conditions play a significant role in alcohol use disorder development. For example, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression are some of the most common. People with these conditions use alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. Additionally, experts warn that having one mental problem increases the likelihood of developing another.

Cultural and Social Factors

In general, the cultural and social acceptance of drinking makes people more likely to develop the disease. In some cases, cultures and social environments encourage drinking. For instance, college students celebrate drinking, especially binge drinking.

Cultural and social factors can also affect alcohol treatment. For example, people who live in cultures that shame drinking often hide the problem and hesitate to get help.

Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder at Steps to Recovery

An Alcohol use disorder requires a full spectrum of treatment that includes alcohol detox, rehab, and aftercare. Steps to Recovery provides the rehab you need without causing serious disruptions to your life. Our comprehensive programs and services include:

Don’t let alcohol overwhelm your life. Put your trust in our rehab center to help you overcome drinking. Call 267.719.8528 now to begin your journey today.