Alcohol Addiction Causes

Alcohol addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. This means that an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can get worse over time if not treated.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

An addicted drinker can increase their alcohol intake even when faced with evidence that doing so has a disastrous impact on their health and quality of life.

There is a difference between alcohol misuse and alcohol addiction. While both are dangerous, the former refers to binge drinking without alcohol dependence. If you are addicted, these are some of the signs that you will show.

  • Your drinking is compulsive and you can't control your alcohol intake.
  • You develop a tolerance to alcohol and need to drink more to feel its effects.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms after a short period of abstinence.
  • You spend a lot of your time getting, using, and recovering from alcohol.
  • You lie about your drinking and alcohol affects your relationships, health, and status as a law-abiding citizen.

Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction takes a massive toll on your mind and body over the short and long term. Because alcohol is a sedative, a binge-drinking session can slow your breathing down and cause a coma or death.

Acute alcohol use over many months and years can kill you slowly, as you’ll see below.

Physical Effects

Chronic alcohol use can lead to cancers and cardiovascular disease. You can also expect the following effects, among others:

  • Brain and nerve damage. This can lead to epilepsy or Korsakoff’s syndrome with its severe memory loss.
  • Damages your detox organs. Your risk of lung infections goes up, and liver damage can lead to jaundice, yellow eyes, and a swollen midsection.
  • Wreaks havoc on your digestive system causing malnutrition, ulcers, and life-threatening bleeding.
  • Compromises your immune system, making it harder to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
  • Affects your skin, bones, muscles, joints, and the part of your brain in charge of balance. This can impede your mobility and cause terrible pain and inflammation.
  • Increases your risk for brain bleeds and strokes.
  • Causes impotence and issues with fertility.

Psychological Effects

Alcohol addiction can give rise to mental health conditions. Drinking also lowers inhibitions, which can lead to self-harm. There are numerous troubling side effects of prolonged and heavy alcohol use, such as:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion
  • Dementia
  • Hallucinations

Causes of Alcohol Addiction


Genes can affect your ability to metabolize alcohol. They can also affect the severity of your hangovers. Furthermore, you can inherit genes that put you at greater risk of addiction.

If you have a family history of alcoholism, it doesn’t mean that you are doomed to repeat the behavior displayed by your older relatives. The amount you drink is very much within your control.

Addiction may contribute to anger, abuse and stress in a domestic setting. This trauma can cause affected family members to turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. This is one way that addiction can become pervasive in a nuclear family unit.

Outpatient treatment helps patients learn healthier ways of managing the issues they face in their home environments.


Life can often be challenging and sad. It can be very tempting to misuse substances as a pick-me-up. But drugs including alcohol are habit-forming and can open up a proverbial can of worms.

Alcohol leads to the release of dopamine, which makes you relax. However, your brain can recognize when it is being stimulated. It tries to restore balance by releasing a downer, dynorphin.

So, after feeling better, you begin to feel worse than ever. Further alcohol consumption can seem like the way to improve your mood. As you build up a tolerance, you will need more vodka, wine, or cider to feel good.

But getting more drunk and doing so more often creates problems in your life which act as further sources of stress. And upping your alcohol intake elevates your stress hormones too. Outpatient treatment or rehab is the best way to break out of this vicious cycle.

Mental Health Disorders

Having a mental health condition can make you more likely to develop an addiction or alcohol use disorder. People who are struggling with the likes of depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD drink to self-medicate.  But when ‘happy hour’ turns into drinking at all hours, mental illness can become worse. And it adds physical illness to the mix.


The easy access to alcohol and the large role that drinking plays in social contexts in the U.S. are two important factors in developing alcohol addiction.

Whether it’s peer pressure in high school, college binge drinking, or bar visits with colleagues, it doesn’t take a big leap to get hooked on one of the Top 5 most addictive substances in the world.

Drinking in your early teens can increase the odds that you will struggle with an AUD in the future. And boys are more likely to become addicted to alcohol than their female counterparts.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol can take over your life. Regaining control is possible and essential for your survival. Willpower counts for a lot. But if you have an alcohol addiction, you need professional assistance and a solid support structure to get sober.

After going through a safe and supervised detox, treatment at an outpatient facility can allow you to continue with work, studies, or care-giving responsibilities.

Therapists can help you address the root causes of addiction. They can give you the tools you need to curb cravings and bounce back quickly from a lapse. And doctors can provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT). For example, the FDA has approved disulfiram and acamprosate in AUD treatment.

Northeast Addiction Treatment Center

NEATC is an outpatient rehab facility in Quincy, MA. We are accredited and employ highly-qualified staff. We also use up-to-date, evidence-based practices and tailor treatment according to our patients’ needs.

With Northeast Addiction Treatment Center as your partner, you can embark on a fresh start. An effective outpatient program can bring back the person addiction took away—the one that people love and miss. And it can be a springboard for a productive, happy future. Contact us for more info about our excellent rehab services.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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