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Risk factors for Alcohol Use Disorder


This article is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Seek medical care for your treatment.

Understanding alcohol use disorder:

Many people think that having a social life and drinking go hand in hand. Friends get together for after-work drinks, couples go out for “date nights” and have cocktails, or some people may simply make it a habit to finish the day with a beer or glass of wine—or two—or more. It might be tough to differentiate between social, sporadic drinking and problematic alcohol use, including alcohol use disorder.    

It can generally be argued that someone’s drinking is “unhealthy” if they carry on consuming alcohol regardless of significant social, health, and possibly legal consequences. Heavy drinking, whether it takes the form of regular or frequent alcohol consumption or binge drinking increases the chance of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, a chronic brain illness that can into remission but not cured.

Alcohol use disorder is rather common. Nearly 14.5 million Americans had AUD in 2019. Additionally, approximately 95,000 deaths in the United States are caused yearly by excessive alcohol use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thankfully, AUD is an illness that can be managed. People can recover from AUD with the help of the right medications and behavioural therapy.

Alcohol use disorder, like many other substance use disorders, is persistent and sometimes recurring condition that is caused by changes in the brain. This means that even if it has been years since a person with the disease last drank, they still run a higher risk of resuming harmful alcohol use when they withdraw from it. Even when they are conscious that drinking alcohol is causing them social, health, financial, and perhaps even legal problems, people with AUD may continue to use it.

Unhealthy drinking:

People who consume alcohol profusely face the risk of developing an array of diseases and problems, including some forms of cancer, liver disease, and heart disease. In addition to damaging the brain and other organs, excessive alcohol use also increases the chances of developing sleep disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. Alcohol might make it more difficult for a person to manage their various medical conditions or aggravate the existing ones.  What then qualifies as “too much” alcohol? When excessive alcohol usage results in medical or societal issues, it is generally seen as unhealthy. This broad category of alcohol use includes a range of drinking behaviours, such as binge drinking, at-risk drinking, and AUD.

  1. At-risk drinking:

Drinking excessive alcohol that increases the risk for alcohol-related illnesses is at-risk drinking. Hazardous or heavy drinking are other terms for at-risk drinking, which is typically determined by how much alcohol a person consumes on average each day or each week:

  • Males: more than four drinks per day or more than fourteen per week
  • Women: more than three drinks per day or seven drinks per week
  • men and women over 65: More than three drinks per day or more than seven per week 
  1. Binge drinking:

Binge drinking is determined by how much alcohol a person consumes over the course of two to three hours. In addition to increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases, binge drinking is prevalent and can result in harm and death through accidents and violent behaviour.

  • Men: five or more drinks in a period of two to three hours.
  • Women: 4 or more drinks within a 2- to 3-hour period 

Even though at-risk and binge drinking can have a variety of negative effects, not everyone who embraces these types of harmful alcohol consumption has an alcohol use disorder. They are at greater risk for it.

Risk factors for alcohol use disorder:

Alcohol use starts early in teenagers, but alcohol use disorder develops more frequently in 20s and 30s. Various factors contribute to alcohol use disorder:

  • Steady or binge drinking: regular excessive drinking for long term or binge drinking regularly can lead to alcohol based problems.
  • Beginning at an early age: people who start drinking at an early age are at greater risk of alcohol use disorder.
  • Family history: genetic factors matter a lot when it comes to excessive drinking. The chances for developing alcohol use disorder are greater if a parent or close relative is suffering from this disorder.
  • Mental health issues: it is common for people with mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to have issues with alcohol or other substances.
  • Trauma history: people with a history of physical or emotional trauma are at an increased risk of alcohol use disorder.
  • Bariatric surgery: certain researches reveal that having bariatric surgery may create the risk of having alcohol use disorder or of relapsing after recovering from alcohol use disorder.
  • Social and cultural factors: Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcohol use disorder. The glamorous way that drinking is sometimes portrayed in the media also may send the message that it’s OK to drink too much. For young people, the influence of parents, peers and other role models can impact risk.

Some of the other known factors are:

  • Easy access and availability to alcohol
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Binge drinking
  • Encouraging societal attitudes towards alcohol use
  • History of childhood abuse
  • History of conduct or mood disorder in childhood
  • Impulsive attitude
  • Low self-esteem
  • Looking for approval of your dear ones
  • Trying to cope with emotional problems
  • Peer pressure


People who have alcohol use disorder and stop drinking are more likely to resume drinking since it is a chronic brain condition. Various health issues such as liver disease, heart disease, some types of cancer, and depression, to name a few, are related to AUD. Nevertheless, AUD can be treated, and recovery is possible. Drugs can make detoxification safe while preventing the harshest withdrawal symptoms. People with AUD can also cut back on their alcohol consumption or quit drinking entirely with the aid of medications and behavioural therapy.

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