Are specific groups of people more likely to have drinking problems?

Yes. Researchers have found that certain groups of people do seem to have a higher incidence of drinking problems. For each of the following groups, the reasons for the increased drinking risk may be different. However, there is a great enough variety in treatment centers and support networks that all "kinds" of drinkers have avenues for finding the help they need.

Men

Men develop alcohol dependency at a much greater rate than women do. In fact, up to half all men in American have alcohol-related problems of one form or another. The reasons for this profound difference aren't entirely clear. One theory holds that men have a naturally greater tendency to take risks. This leads to more experimentation with drugs and alcohol during youth. For some men, this experimentation evolves into full-blown addiction. Another possibility is that men's higher tolerance to alcohol lead to generally more consumption, and that even a little more consumption heightens the risk of becoming dependent. Of course, there are genetic considerations as well. If a certain gene or set of genes predisposes people to alcoholism, and that gene occurs more frequently in men, then that could account for men's greater risk for alcohol abuse.

College Students

For better or worse, drinking during the college years has become a cultural rite of passage. Images of binge-drinking college students pervade television and the movies. Peer pressure and cultural norms on campus certainly encourage some students to drink and engage in other risky behaviors. Furthermore, adjustment disorders associated with the transition from home to a distant campus often drives at-risk students to drink. Unfortunately, heavy drinking during college both interferes with academics and puts young people at risk of continuing problems with alcohol.

Abused Children

"A family history of physical or psychological abuse leads to a much greater risk of alcohol abuse later in adolescence or adulthood."A family history of physical or psychological abuse leads to a much greater risk of alcohol abuse later in adolescence or adulthood. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, three-quarters of women with substance abuse issues also reported prior physical or sexual abuse. In these cases, alcohol and other drugs are a means to cope with the psychological after-effect of abuse. Therapists must be cognizant of past abuse in order to help such individuals.

Mentally Ill Individuals

People with certain mental illnesses are far more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Half of all schizophrenics, for example, have a substance abuse problem of one form or another. Bipolar disorder and depression are also significant risk factors. Therapists suggest that these individuals initially turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of their illness. While perhaps offering short-term relief, prolonged alcohol or drug abuse only exacerbates the symptoms of mental illness. Recovery for these individuals is challenging. However, a return to health is possible when both the mental illness and the addiction are equally addressed.

American Indians

A devastating combination of poverty and seclusion has led to startlingly high rates of alcoholism among populations of Native Americans. These people are more likely to hide substance abuse issues rather than seek treatment. Mistrust and fear of the medical establishment may drive this group of alcoholics to suffer in silence.

Latinos

Among Latino men, a quality of machismo is associated with heavy alcohol consumption. In spite of this, full-blown alcoholism among Latinos is seen as a weakness. The odds that a person from this population will seek professional help for a drinking problem are relatively low. Instead, Latino men are more likely to keep abuse issues close to their chest.

Homosexuals

Some research suggests that homosexuals turn to drugs and alcohol more so than their heterosexual peers do. Bullying and social stigmatization certainly plays a big part in this greater risk for alcoholism and drug abuse. Homosexuals from small, conservative communities frequently turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with feelings of ostracism. When one's social circle accepts and even encourages substance abuse, it's quite easy to fall into an unhealthy pattern. With caring, supportive treatment, recovery for members of this population is within reach.

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