Like all conditions, alcoholism does’t exist in a vacuum – it doesn’t come out of nowhere. Additionally, it is not caused by a single gene or event, either. Indeed, there are biological, environmental, genetic, psychological, and social factors which all contribute to whether someone becomes an alcoholic.

Biological Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Some Asian populations present some of best evidence for how biology is one of the greatest risk factors for alcoholism. These persons, often of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean heritage exhibit a liver enzyme deficiency which inhibits the breakdown of alcohol. Due to this fact, they are at a lower risk for alcoholism. When they drink, they are more likely to experience flushing, vomiting and increased rate. These effects are very unpleasant, and for that reason, these persons tend to drink less, and less often.

Not yet accounted for, is the fact that those of Jewish ancestry may consume a large amount of alcohol, and yet have a low incidence of alcoholism. On the other hand, some populations are at increased risk. Native Americans, for example, are at a very high risk for the disease. This is because they are slower to become intoxicated, so they tend to drink more. Studies have shown that brain wave patterns may be considered risk factors for alcoholism, as well.

Environmental and Psychological Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Family history, parenting, and gender all may influence substance abuse. For example, many more men than women engage in alcoholism, perhaps as many as 5:1 – although the number of women who abuse alcohol has been steadily rising. As many as 1 in 4 sons of alcoholic fathers may develop some level of alcoholism.

Fortunately, however, most children of alcoholics do not develop the conditions. Rather, it is those children in families who have multiple risk factors who are most likely to become alcoholics. These risk factors include having parents or and/or other close relatives who:

  • Are alcohol dependent.
  • Have co-occurring mental illness.
  • Use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Engage in family violence.

Peers may also influence youth to participate in alcohol abuse, and are more likely to do so under the following circumstances:

  • There is a lack of parental supervision.
  • There is serious and chronic family conflict.
  • The parent-child relationship is lacking.
  • The child has some type of conduct disorder.
  • The child is poorly socialized, and has exhibits a lack of coping skills.
  • The child is not well connected to parents, other family members, or school.