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Can I Become an Adult Alcoholic Even If I Drank Responsibly When I Was Younger?

Many factors can lead to alcoholism, which can make it possible for an individual to become an alcoholic at any age. Even people who spend years drinking responsibly may develop a problem with alcohol later in life. However, there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. An alcoholic is someone with a physical addiction to alcohol. An individual who abuses alcohol, however, continues to drink even when alcohol causes problems but may not be physically addicted.

Signs of Alcoholism

An individual who is physically dependent on alcohol will often display physical and behavioral signs including the following:

  • Feeling the need to drink more over time to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, shaky hands, sweating, nausea and headaches, when alcohol leaves the system
  • Feeling out of control while drinking
  • Focusing on drinking instead of other responsibilities and drinking even when it causes serious problems socially and professionally

Causes of Alcoholism

Experts may debate the exact causes of alcoholism, but groups like the National Institutes of Health agree it often takes a combination of several risk factors to lead to the disease. Researchers have identified a genetic link to alcoholism, but individuals who have genetic markers are not always destined to become alcoholics. On average, more men struggle with alcohol problems than women and people who begin drinking early in life, at age 14 or younger, are more likely to abuse alcohol as adults. Alcoholism is also more common for people with a mental health condition, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Other risk factors include a stressful lifestyle, low self-esteem, association with peers who drink and association with a culture where drinking is common and accepted.

Identifying Alcohol Abuse Problems

There are many signs that may indicate that a person has a problem with alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers four questions that can help identify if a person has an alcohol abuse problem. If an individual answers yes to one or more of the following questions, it is likely he has a drinking problem.

  • Have you ever felt you should decrease your drinking?
  • Have you ever gotten defensive when someone criticizes your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Need Help Finding Alcoholism Treatment?

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism or alcohol abuse, please call our toll-free helpline. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to help answer your questions about alcoholism and the steps toward recovery. Do not let problems with alcohol stand in the way of a better life. Call us today.