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Why Do People Become Alcoholics?

Did you know that 1.34 billion people worldwide consumed unsafe amounts of alcohol in 2020? However, while some of those people may have become alcoholics, others did not. What’s the difference between the groups? 

Why do people become alcoholics or not? No one chooses to become an alcoholic. 

The story of alcoholism is as complex as the motivations behind why some people choose to start drinking. This post explores some of the common reasons people will often become alcoholics.

Keep reading and learn more about alcoholism causes and what risk factors come into play. 

How Does Someone Get Addicted to Alcohol

When you drink a beer or wine, or even some shots of strong spirits, your body experiences a chemical reaction. Your brain releases more dopamine and endorphins, which triggers feelings of pleasure and motivation. This teaches you to associate alcohol with pleasure.

For many people, this reaction drives them to drink more. However, as you drink, you build up a tolerance over time. This means you need more to achieve the same effect as before.

If you don’t drink enough, you might experience symptoms of withdrawal. For some people, this triggers them to drink more to stop withdrawal symptoms.

When you build up that tolerance, and you can’t stop drinking without experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, you’ve become physically dependent on alcohol.

Physical vs Psychological Addiction to Alcohol

Some people do not get addicted to alcohol because they enjoy the feeling it gives them. For example, you might have heard of people using alcohol to “medicate.”

They might use it to self-soothe and avoid the symptoms of another mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. Many people get addicted to alcohol because it helps them escape their problems and feel better.

This isn’t a physical addiction; it’s a psychological one.

Why Does Someone Get Addicted to Alcohol

There is no straightforward answer to this question like there is no straightforward answer to the question, why do people start drinking? Not all people who drink become alcoholics.

The answer to why alcoholism happens depends on the person and their particular situation at the time. However, many factors can contribute.


Alcoholism can be a genetic disease. If you have parents who are alcoholics, there is a higher chance you will be one too.

It’s not just about the family history. The brain chemistry of a person who is genetically prone to alcoholism will react differently when they consume alcohol.

Childhood Experiences

Many people who become alcoholics have a history of trauma or abuse in their childhood. If you experience abuse and neglect, it can cause a lot of trauma. Some people will use alcohol to cope with this.

Brain Chemistry

Some people’s brain chemistry makes them more prone to alcoholism. This is often caused by a trauma earlier in life.


Your environment can also be a factor. If you live in a culture where alcohol use is normal, then you are more likely to become an alcoholic. If you live in a culture where people use alcohol to cope with stress, you are more likely to become an alcoholic.

Personality Traits

Being impulsive is a trait that can make you more likely to drink alcohol. Impulsivity is associated with many mental health issues, including different types of substance abuse.


Sometimes people drink alcohol to self-medicate for another issue. For example, you might use alcohol to cope with stress or sadness. Or, if you’re dealing with chronic pain, you might use alcohol to help dull those feelings.

Peer Pressure

Sometimes alcohol becomes a way to fit in with your friends. Peer pressure is a significant factor for some people. Drinking becomes almost like a competition.

Financial Problems

Money problems can put some people at a higher risk of developing alcoholism. If you’re struggling financially, you might use alcohol to help relieve that stress.

Mental Health

People with mental health issues are sometimes more likely to drink alcohol and become addicted. This is because they might use alcohol to deal with their symptoms. Around 86 per cent of people in treatment for an alcohol addiction also have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis. 

Several mental health conditions are commonly seen in dual diagnosis.


Alcoholism is often found in people who have depression. People who are depressed tend to rely more heavily on alcohol to help with their feelings.

Anxiety Disorders

If you have an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, then you might turn to alcohol to reduce those feelings. Drinking can make you feel better for a little while, but it only masks the symptoms of your issues.


People who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) might be more likely to develop an alcohol problem. PTSD is a mental health condition brought on after someone experiences a traumatic event such as war or rape.

Bipolar Disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, then you have a higher chance of being an alcoholic. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings.

People with this disorder will often feel a lot of highs and lows. They’ll go from feeling super energetic and happy to sad and depressed.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorders usually cause someone to have panic attacks.

Panic attacks are a quick build-up of symptoms that are so intense that they scare you. These feelings can be so frightening that you might use alcohol to help dull those feelings.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have extreme mood swings, a lack of emotion, and impulsive behaviours. People with borderline personality disorder are 3.35 times more likely to be alcoholics.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can cause you to feel bad about yourself and as though you are not good enough. Alcohol can change your brain so that you feel better about yourself. 


Someone with schizophrenia experiences delusions and hallucinations. These can be very frightening. They may cause you to feel like you need to drink to avoid these symptoms.

Why Do People Become Alcoholics?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to the question of why do people become alcoholics. Many factors come into play. However, there is hope if you or someone you love is struggling with addiction. 

Detox Plus offers free and unbiased advice to help you find addiction treatment and mental health treatment. Contact us today and let us help you find a supportive and nurturing centre where you can begin your path to recovery.