Risk factors for problem drinking
When friends haven’t seen each other in awhile, one of them might happily suggest, “let’s meet up for drinks!” The tradition of socializing, celebrating, or brooding with a stiff drink in hand has a long and storied history: alcohol has been present everywhere from festivals of Dionysius in ancient Rome to Humphrey Bogart remembering Paris in Casablanca.
For some people, however, a casual invitation to hit the bar is received with anxiety and is a cause for deep self-examination. These people may find that they drink more often than they’d like to, their drinking gets out of control quickly, or both. They’re tired of sacrificing entire days after long, alcohol-fueled nights to lay on the couch so sick that they can’t even drink water or sit up without vomitting. Almost every time they drink, they have to call people to find out what happened at some points during the previous night, they log into Facebook to find embarrassing photographic evidence of what happened during their blackouts, or they feel guilty or must apologize to people for things they said or did. These people might start to wonder if they have a problem with alcohol.
If you’ve been feeling this way, you’re definitely not alone. Alcoholism and problem drinking are much more common than people may realize: according to a national alcohol survey from 2007, 18% of respondents reported that they had abused alcohol at some point in their lives and 13% of respondents reported that they had been dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives. Alcohol abuse is associated with many negative long-term effects including sexual problems, obesity, skin problems, liver problems, and high blood pressure. Plus, the immediate after-effects of alcohol may include feeling sick, anxious, or emotional.
Some people may be at more risk for developing alcohol abuse or dependence. Many different risk factors exist for alcohol abuse:
–Genetics. If you have a family history of alcoholism, you may have an increased risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. Additionally, studies have shown that men are more likely to abuse alcohol than are women.
–Age at first drink. The younger you are when you start drinking, the more at-risk you may be for alcohol dependency. One study conducted by Hinson et al and published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol in 2003 found that adults who started drinking before age 14 were three times more likely to report alcohol dependence at some point in their lives than adults who started drinking after age 21.
–Emotional factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may be more likely to abuse alcohol.
–Stress. Sometimes, people going through periods of stress will increase their drinking in an attempt to improve their moods, block out stressors, or fall asleep.
The presence of risk factors does not guarantee that you will abuse alcohol. Recognizing when your drinking is becoming harmful to you and acknowledging that you want to slow down or stop drinking are crucial to taking control of the situation and putting yourself on the road to living a happy, healthy life.