What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol use is widely accepted and even encouraged in many cultures around the world. It’s something that is often found at holidays, dinner parties, weddings, and moments of celebration. In most social gatherings, you’ll find an alcoholic beverage of some kind.

The prevalence of alcohol can make it feel impossible to avoid. Many people believe that you need alcohol in order to have fun, let loose, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s the reason why many people rely on a nightly drink to take the edge off a long day at work.

Although some people think that alcohol is a tool that can be used for positive gain, it also has the power to damage a person’s health and relationships. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 14.4 million adults over age 18 struggle with alcoholism. The same study found that more than 400,000 adolescents between the ages 12–17 meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

People who abuse alcohol typically experience physical, emotional, and behavioral changes. In the early stages of addiction, the symptoms may be harder to recognize. As a person’s addiction gets worse, it becomes more obvious that they are acting differently and making excuses for their excessive drinking. Some of the most common signs of alcoholism are:
  • Having a high tolerance to alcohol
  • Drinking in isolation
  • Hiding alcohol
  • Developing poor eating habits
  • Irritability
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Making excuses to drink
  • Not being able to stop drinking once they start
  • Prioritizing alcohol consumption over other responsibilities


Not every alcoholic will exhibit these symptoms. Everyone’s addiction is different, and alcoholism can range from mild to severe. Some people consider themselves to be “functioning alcoholics,” meaning their addiction does not interfere with their ability to live a normal life. However, any individual who is drinking too much is at risk for serious physical and mental health complications.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

Addiction researchers are not certain about the scientific cause of alcohol addiction, but research has shown that a person’s genetics and their environment play a significant role. Some of the causes of alcoholic addiction include:

  • Having a family member who struggles with alcoholism
  • Living in an environment that normalizes excessive alcohol consumption
  • Experiencing peer pressure to drink, especially at a young age
  • Having a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety
  • Regularly overconsuming alcohol
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Having low self-esteem or feelings of self-worth

Millions of people drink alcohol regularly without developing an addiction. But when people use alcohol to numb their emotions or self-medicate, it can lead to a dependence. Excessive drinking causes a person to feel euphoric and relaxed, and when alcohol is consumed in large quantities, it can create lasting changes in the brain. That person can no longer feel relaxed or happy without drinking alcohol, which causes addiction.

Eventually, an alcoholic no longer gets pleasure from drinking, and instead, they drink to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. In cases of severe addiction, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening and dangerous. People who are addicted to alcohol should never try to get sober on their own. Enrolling in a medical detox program is the only way to go through the withdrawal process safely.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is treatable, but not many people actually seek professional help.

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health determined that just 4.6% of alcohol addicts over age 12 got treatment for their substance abuse disorder. Data shows that the number of people who get treatment for substance abuse has been steady over the last few years.

The treatment for alcoholism varies depending on the severity of a person’s addiction and the extent of damage caused. Alcoholism is diagnosed through a psychiatric evaluation with a licensed mental health professional or addiction medicine specialist. But recovering addicts will also undergo medical testing to check for alcohol liver disease and other internal organ complications. Alcohol liver disease can be treated by medication, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases, liver transplant.

People who suffer from severe addictions usually start in a detox program with medical supervision in a treatment facility. To make the withdrawal process more comfortable, doctors can administer medication to ease the symptoms. Seizure medications and anticonvulsants may be given to prevent delirium tremens, which happens in about 5% of all alcohol withdrawal cases.

After detox, recovering addicts enter a residential inpatient treatment program or partial hospitalization (PHP) program. PHP treatment typically consists of regular one-on-one therapy sessions, group meetings, life skills training, goal setting, nutrition courses, family therapy, and more. At Nexus Recovery, clients in our PHP program receive treatment at our facility for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.

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The next step in treatment is to enroll in an intensive outpatient program that offers support for people who have been sober for an extended period of time. Clients in our intensive outpatient and regular outpatient programs come to our facility for treatment several days a week, and participate in sessions around accountability and long-term sobriety.

Aftercare is the final step in alcoholism treatment, which is a program that helps people achieve lasting sobriety, and start building a life for themselves after treatment. All former Nexus Recovery clients are invited to join our alumni program, which includes sober mentoring, monthly meetings, fun community events, a weekly 12-step meeting, and more.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Call us at (310) 881-9151 to speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors about the programs we offer at Nexus Recovery.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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