The causes of alcohol addiction are unknown, although some people may have a genetic predisposition. Other mental health issues, habitual heavy drinking and other factors may also play a role.
Heavy alcohol use is the biggest factor in developing an addiction to it. Men who drink more than 15 drinks in a week and women who drink more than 12 are at risk of becoming dependent. This occurs because alcohol affects the way the brain experiences pleasure. The feeling of pleasure becomes tied to alcohol, causing the affected person to seek out more alcohol.
Many people who abuse alcohol also suffer from conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. People with low self-esteem are also at greater risk. Stressful lifestyles and relationship problems may also affect a person's ability to control their alcohol consumption. People who are frequently around alcohol and can access it easily may also be more likely to develop problems, especially if this starts at a young age.
Genetic causes are complex, but alcoholism does run in families, which suggests an inheritable disorder. People with a family history of alcohol may have higher serotonin and dopamine levels, which gives them a higher tolerance to alcohol. Their amygdalas are often smaller, which may make it harder to regulate their emotional response and cravings for alcohol. However, people without a family history can still develop an addiction, and some with a family history can use it responsibly.