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Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Learn about the risk factors for alcoholism in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


I'm often asked by people, what are the risk factors for alcohol problems and there's many risk factors that could come about for people. One major risk factor is looking at one's family and looking at whether there's been alcohol or other substance abuse problems in the family. There often is a generational or intergenerational issue with alcohol problems. You often see families where their alcohol has run through several generations and you have to look carefully back, if you can, some people don't have that history available to them but even in the present day, you want to look at parents and children to see if there's been a parent who's had an alcohol problem. The children have a higher likelihood to develop an alcohol problem than children of people who don't have any alcohol problems or any alcohol problems in the family. You'll often, if you look at families and extended families, you'll often see families where there's many many people who have some kind of substance abuse disorder, whether that be alcohol or other substances and often, you see in families, you might see an older generation where there's been a lot of alcohol problems and then the next generation, there's been a lot of substance abuse disorder, that's through drugs. And a lot of that can be really determined by a social context and peer context that with parents who were raised in the 30s and 40s and 50s, there wasn't the same level of drugs out there as in the 60s and 70s and 80s so it may just be that they developed, they have the genetic predisposition for substance use disorder but that it ended up getting expressed with different substances. Other risk factors are peer and social contexts. If you're in a social context in which alcohol is not used, if you're in a social context work context where people are don't drink as opposed to a social context where people may drink at lunch, people may drink after work, in the 80s, a stereotype in the 80s was Wall Street, where there was a tremendous amount of cocaine use in Wall Street firms, fueling people's work actually, people working tremendously long hours, people being workaholics actually and needing that boost so it was very common back then for there to be very open cocaine use. Society's changed. That's really not the case anymore. That doesn't mean we see less cocaine problems, but it's just in a different context for it. So again, your social context can be a risk factor. When people have often their alcohol problems may start as teenagers or within college because colleges, there's a high tolerance and a real normalization of heavy drinking so those are a few risk factors to look for if you're concerned about your own alcohol use or someone around you.

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