Person struggling with late-onset alcoholism

What Causes Late-Onset Alcoholism?

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can develop at any stage in life. Many young people experiment with alcohol and engage in excessive drinking behaviors like binge or heavy drinking. But this is often a temporary phase, and drinking naturally slows down as they take on the growing responsibilities of adulthood. Others may become dependent on alcohol and develop an alcohol use disorder over time. Some do not experience issues with alcohol until later in life, referred to as late-onset alcoholism. But what causes late-onset alcoholism, and is it possible to prevent it?

If you need help quitting alcohol, Promises Brazos Valley is here to guide you. We offer a full range of alcohol addiction treatment programs so that we can meet your needs whether you have a mild dependence on alcohol or you have struggled with excessive drinking for years. Start getting the supportive recovery services you need by calling us at 979.426.0086.

What Causes Late-Onset Alcoholism?

The causes of late-onset alcoholism can be complex and vary from person to person. Some of the most common factors that can lead to late-onset alcoholism include:

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors are a significant cause of late-onset alcoholism. This can be passed on through families or caused by a mutation in the DNA. One such example is alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) deficiency. ADH is an enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. People with ADH deficiency have higher levels of alcohol in their blood after drinking because they do not break down as much of it into acetaldehyde, which causes flushing and nausea when consumed in large amounts.

Social and Environmental Factors

Social and environmental factors can play a prominent role in a person’s decision to drink alcohol and whether they engage in moderate or excessive drinking behaviors. Some examples include:

  • Family history of alcohol use disorder
  • Stressful events, such as divorce or the death of a loved one
  • Peer pressure from friends or coworkers who drink heavily

Generally, life stressors and the people closest to you will significantly impact if, when, and how you drink alcohol.

Changes in the Brain

Certain neurological conditions can increase the chances that someone will misuse alcohol at a later age. Studies have indicated that if someone begins misusing alcohol at a later age, it could be one of the first signs of an underlying neurological condition, such as frontotemporal dementia. Unfortunately, most people do not recognize this connection. By the time they have developed alcohol dependence, the focus is on treating that condition, and any potential neurological conditions are often overlooked or attributed to alcohol.

Can You Prevent Late-Onset Alcoholism?

Understanding the causes of late-onset alcoholism can empower you to prevent yourself or a loved one from falling victim to this condition. Unfortunately, you cannot change your genetic risk for late-onset alcoholism, but there are measures you can take to address social, environmental, and neurological factors:

  • If you know of a family history of AUD, you may choose to abstain from alcohol or carefully moderate your consumption.
  • Build up your resilience to peer pressure so you feel comfortable saying no or limiting your time around people who pressure you to drink.
  • Learn healthy coping skills to help you handle stressful events without resorting to self-medication with alcohol.
  • Reduce your risk of dementia or other neurological disorders by staying active, eating a healthy diet, and refraining from smoking or excessive alcohol use.

Implementing these strategies can reduce the chances of developing late-onset alcoholism while improving overall health. If you still struggle with controlling your alcohol consumption, seek professional help.

Get the Support You Need for Late-Onset Alcoholism at Promises Brazos Valley

The best prevention for late-onset alcoholism is to adopt an alcohol-free lifestyle. But this can be easier said than done. You can also reduce your risk of or treat late-onset alcoholism with support from our caring and compassionate staff. Contact Promises Brazos Valley today at 979.426.0086 to learn more.

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