Alcoholism does not discriminate, spanning globally across ages, races, genders, ethnicity and socioeconomic statuses. While 88% of U.S. adults have tried alcohol, a whopping 28% drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence.
Though there is not a single “alcoholic” gene, research confirms alcoholism runs in families through both genetics and learned behaviors. However, alcoholism can also develop with no prior family addiction history.
Individuals who have a history of abuse (physical, mental, sexual) have a higher risk for drug addiction. Studies have also shown they also respond worse to treatment compared to those without a history of trauma.
A large portion of alcoholics suffer from an accompanying psychiatric or substance abuse disorders. Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are the most common psychiatric problems. Anxiety disorders, social phobias and those with a lack of impulse control are closely related to addiction as well.
The average age of first use of alcohol is 17. In fact, around 2 million Americans age 12-20 are considered heavy drinkers, with over 3% already showing signs of alcoholism. Because underage drinking interferes with normal adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction increases significantly. About 9% of individuals who began drinking after the age 21 developed alcohol dependence.
The gender split for alcoholism is around 65% male and 35% female. While men are nearly twice as likely to struggle with alcohol, they are also 2.4% more likely to seek treatment. On average, 17% of men and 8% of women develop dependence at some point in their lives, leading to approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women dying each year from alcohol-related causes.
Cultural norms, community and peer groups influence the availability and acceptance of alcohol, which can lead to drinking earlier, more and more often.
The top 10 alcohol-consuming states by per capita rate are:
- New Hampshire
- Washington, D.C.
- North Dakota