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Are You At Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder?

People don't drink to become addicted. And many people drink alcohol throughout their lives without a problem. Why do some people drink to unhealthy levels, while others don't? Certain things make an alcohol problem more likely. These are called risk factors.

What increases your risk

Risk factors include:

  • Genes. People with alcohol problems often have a family history of alcohol problems.

  • Early use. The younger you were when you first started drinking alcohol, the higher your risk of developing alcohol problems later as an adult.

  • Mental health. If you have mental health problems, such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorders, you are more likely to use alcohol.

  • Use of other substances. You are more likely to misuse alcohol if you misuse other substances, such as tobacco, illegal drugs, or prescription medicines.

  • Environment. If you live in an area where alcohol is easy to get, people drink a lot, or heavy drinking is accepted as part of life, you are more likely to drink.

  • Friends. Your friends may influence you to drink by directly urging you to or by drinking when you're around them.

  • Problems with others. You may be more likely to drink when you are having problems in your family or with friends.

  • Not having purpose or satisfaction in your life. If you have no activities that give you a sense of purpose, you may be more likely to drink.

Just because you have risk factors for alcohol problems doesn't mean you'll have a drinking problem. A person with many risk factors won't always develop an alcohol use disorder. And a person with no risk factors can develop an alcohol use disorder.

Limiting how much you drink

The greatest risk factor is how much alcohol you drink. People who stay within recommended limits have less than a 1% chance of developing an alcohol use disorder.

One standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, at about 5% alcohol

  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol 

To stay clear of alcohol-related problems, limit how much alcohol you drink. This means you should drink no more than:

  • 1 standard drink per day, if you are a woman or age 65 or older

  • 7 standard drinks per week, if you are a woman or age 65 or older

  • 2 standard drinks per day, if you are a man younger than age 65

  • 14 standard drinks per week, if you are a man younger than age 65



Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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