Am I an Alcoholic?

Alcoholism (also known as Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD) is a chronic, relapsing disease affecting millions of individuals in the United States. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 51 percent of the population aged 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month. More than 14 million individuals aged 12 and older were suffering from alcoholism. And each year, more than 2,200 individuals die due to alcohol poisoning. Many may come to wonder, “Am I an alcoholic?

What Causes Alcoholism?

Some individuals are more prone to alcoholism than others. Alcoholism involves several complex risk factors:

  • Genetics and family history. These factors are the most correlated with one’s risk for alcoholism – in fact, genetics are about half of the problem, with family history making up the other half. When coupled with a genetic tendency toward alcoholism, an upbringing fraught with difficulties like childhood abuse and parental struggles can increase the risk of becoming an alcoholic.
  • Current environment. Stress can be a major trigger for alcoholics – pressure at work and trouble at home can both lead to alcohol abuse.
    Gender. While the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that men are more likely to drink and become alcohol dependent than women, its research also suggests that women are more vulnerable to alcohol-related damage.
  • Mental health condition. The Mental Health Foundation notes that individuals already dealing with mental health issues such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder are very likely to deal with co-occurring alcohol abuse disorder as well.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

If you have a family history of alcoholism, you’ve probably asked yourself this question: Can I inherit alcoholism? Science says yes…with caveats. Scientists have long debated whether alcoholism is hereditary or genetic, but children of alcoholics have a twofold to fourfold increased chance of struggling with alcohol abuse later in life.

In 2012, scientists published some of the first research on alcohol use and genetics, reporting that the following genes increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder:

  • ADH1B, also known as “alcohol flush reaction.” This gene results in an inability to properly metabolize alcohol, leading to flushed, sweaty skin and a feeling of sickness after consuming even a small amount of alcohol. One report found that 70 percent of East Asians have this gene – but if you’re European or Caucasian, the likely absence of ADH1B from your genetic makeup can make you more prone to alcoholism.
  • GABRB1. GABA induces relaxation and relieves anxiety or stress, and alcohol alters how much GABA is available to the brain. Mutations in the GABRB1 gene lead to less GABA production while sober, and may prompt individuals to abuse alcohol in pursuit of this mellowed state.
  • Beta-Klotho. Individuals with the Beta-Klotho gene are seemingly able to control their drinking, successfully stopping after one or two drinks. Interestingly, this gene is triggered by two hormones that can also determine whether you have a sweet tooth. Individuals lacking this gene are less capable of limiting their alcohol consumption.

Signs You Are an Alcoholic

Alcoholism is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). To be officially diagnosed with alcoholism, individuals must meet two of the following criteria within one 12-month period:

  • Drinking more alcohol or drinking for a longer period of time than originally intended.
  • Trying and failing to cut back on alcohol consumption.
  • Giving up on social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  • Finding that alcohol is interfering with major obligations such as work, school or family.
  • Spending significant time obtaining, drinking, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Cravings or a strong desire for alcohol.
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite it causing negative interpersonal or social issues.
  • Consuming alcohol in physically dangerous situations (i.e. while driving).
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
  • Building a tolerance (i.e. needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect).
  • Developing symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol consumption is ceased.

If you visit a medical professional for a diagnosis, he or she will likely use the above criteria in conjunction with some or all of the following actions:

  1. Asking questions about your drinking habits. If the doctor wants to speak with your family and friends as well, remember he or she cannot do so without your permission.
  2. Conducting lab and imaging tests. These tests can show damage to your organs or identify health problems linked to your alcohol abuse.
    Performing a physical exam. Many physical signs can indicate the possibility of alcohol abuse.
  3. Completing a psychological evaluation. The doctor may ask you to fill out a questionnaire regarding your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

About Cliffside Malibu

It can be scary to admit you’re an alcoholic, but admitting you have an alcohol addiction is the first step on the road to recovery.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for each and every client. We are committed to providing the best care possible through a continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program includes not only evidence-based behavioral therapy but family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are designed and structured to be a supportive environment in order to maintain sobriety.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, to meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit