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Alcoholism (cont.)

What Causes Alcoholism?

The cause of alcoholism is not well-established. There is growing evidence for genetic and biologic predispositions for this disease. First-degree relatives of individuals with alcohol use disorder are four to seven times more likely to develop alcoholism than the general population. 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. One study showed one-third of men age 18-24 met the criteria for alcohol dependence, and those who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence. Men are more likely to engage in binge drinking or heavy drinking. They are also more likely to be involved in behaviors that harm themselves or others such as alcohol-related violence, using other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, having sex with six or more partners, and earning mostly Ds and Fs in school grades.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/11/2016

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