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The cause of alcoholism is not well established. There is growing evidence for genetic and biologic predispositions for this disease, but this research is controversial. Studies examining adopted children have shown that children of alcoholic biological parents have an increased risk of becoming alcohol dependent as well. Relatively recent research has implicated a gene (D2 dopamine receptor gene) that, when inherited in a specific form, might increase a person's chance of developing alcoholism.
Usually, a variety of factors contribute to the development of a problem with alcohol. Social factors such as the influence of family, peers, and society, and the availability of alcohol, and psychological factors such as elevated levels of stress, inadequate coping mechanisms, and reinforcement of alcohol use from other drinkers can contribute to alcoholism. Also, the factors contributing to initial alcohol use may vary from those maintaining it, once the disease develops.
While it may not be causative, twice as many men are alcohol dependent. Statistics show alcohol problems are highest among adults aged 18-29, and those who start drinking before age 21 are at higher risk for developing alcoholism.
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