There’s a common misconception about alcohol that it’s somehow safer than other addictive substances just because it’s legal. But alcohol consumption still carries a high risk of addiction and part of the reason is because it’s legal and so widely available.

Addiction to alcohol is more commonly referred to as alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), and as of 2019, around 14.5 million American adults reported that they struggle with this disease.

But how does it come to occur? What causes some people to become alcoholics while others don’t? Here are 4 of the leading causes of alcoholism in New Hampshire and nationwide:

Genetic Predisposition

If you’ve ever heard someone say, “alcoholism runs in my family,” you may not have taken it seriously. Believe it or not, though, some people get their risk for alcoholism and other addiction naturally — through their genes.

Research has proven that if you have a parent or close family member who struggles with alcohol use disorder, your risk for alcoholism will be higher than average. This makes it extra important to monitor your drinking habits closely, because alcoholism can develop without you noticing if you’re not careful.

Using Alcohol at an Early Age

Studies have also shown that people who started drinking while they were underage are more likely to have negative consequences related to alcohol use later in life. Because the frontal lobe — the part of the brain that controls things like impulsiveness and common sense — is not fully developed in children and adolescence, the damage done by alcohol consumption can be significant.

Often children who drugs and alcohol are more likely to get in legal trouble and less likely to finish their education, both additional risk factors for substance abuse in the future.

Risky Drinking Behavior

“Binge drinking”, or drinking a lot of alcohol in a single session, is something common in colleges across the U.S., which may present the belief that it’s harmless. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Frequent binge drinking can not only result in serious harm to the function of the brain, it’s also known to accelerate the development of alcoholism.

Since New Hampshire is consistently ranked among the top 5 states nationally in binge drinking, this particular cause of alcoholism is something to be especially aware of.

Trauma and Mental Illness

People with mental illness are at higher risk for things like houselessness, poverty, and addiction — including alcoholism.

In addition, people who have suffered serious trauma like the sudden loss of a loved one or a violent attack may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with their emotions.

This is why we take special care to acknowledge co-occurring disorders in our approach to treatment, because sometimes, issues are caused by more than solely substance abuse.

Get Help Before It’s Too Late

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, it may be more difficult to make the decision to get help, because alcohol is so widely available, legal, and accepted in our culture. But alcohol can still be dangerous — it may even cause lasting damage to your health — and if you’re not in control of your consumption, you need to get help as soon as possible.

Contact Live Free Recovery Services today to learn about the treatment programs we offer for alcoholics.