Study Lists 13 Risk Factors for Alcoholism – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News


Stock photo A new study details 13 risk factors for developing a drinking problem.

People can change certain personality traits that put them at risk

A new study details 13 risk factors for developing a problem with alcohol – from impulsiveness to lack of coping skills.

The researchers hope the study can be used to better identify and help those at risk.

People are currently diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder if drinking alcohol leads to negative consequences, said study lead author Cassie Boness, formerly at the University of Missouri and now a professor. research assistant at the Center on Alcohol, Substance Use and Addiction at the University of New Mexico.

Drinking alcohol could interfere with their relationships, harm their ability to work responsibly, or harm their physical and mental health, she said.

Boness said the current diagnostic process focuses too narrowly on the negative consequences of people’s actions. Examining the 13 risk factors could help identify people earlier and lead to tailored treatment options.

“Eventually, we would like to see assessment tools that more fully capture the factors articulated in our framework so that we can identify individual risk profiles and possibly intervene during the early stages of addiction,” Boness said.

For the study, the researchers looked at decades of research to compile the list of risk factors. Some are personality traits. But Boness said that with the right therapy, the right training and – in some cases – the right medications, people can defend themselves against their own personal risk factors.

Therapy and training, for example, can boost people’s cognitive control. People with strong cognitive control are better at planning ahead, sticking to a task and controlling their impulses, decisions and actions, Boness said.

“It exists in varying degrees in the population. We all differ in cognitive control,” she said.

People can learn to slow down, reflect on the results of their actions and make better decisions, she said.

Boness noted that cognitive control is not the same as intelligence.

“A person can be very smart and very impulsive,” she said.

Some people prone to alcohol use disorders may benefit from the drug naltrexone, Bonnes said. Naltrexone helps block the pleasurable effects of alcohol and drugs while curbing cravings.

Bonnes said people can learn to refuse to drink so they know the right words to say before they find themselves in a situation where alcohol is offered to them.

The 13 risk factors predict who is most likely to develop alcohol use disorder and continue to struggle with alcohol use long term, she said.

Being aware of risk factors could encourage more people to seek help and could help addiction treatment providers create more responsive plans. The risk factors are:

  1. Not Being Conscientious – Conscientious people are cautious, conscientious, thoughtful in their decision-making, have self-control, and enjoy order. A lack of awareness can cause people to lack planning and persistence.
  2. Poor ability to control responses – If you feel an urge to do something, how likely are you to stop yourself from acting on the urge? Are you able to stop yourself from losing control?
  3. Prefer immediate rewards — Do you tend to choose smaller, short-term rewards over larger, long-term rewards? Do you have difficulty planning your actions and waiting for a future reward? People who prefer immediate rewards, for example, might choose to binge on alcohol tonight, even if it jeopardizes their ability to work the next day.
  4. Heightened Sensitivity to Rewards – Do you have an increased desire to seek out rewards and derive more pleasure from them than most people? An increased sensitivity to rewards can lead to reckless behavior, drug and alcohol use, and irresponsible sexual activity. But it also encourages us to have social interactions, try new experiences, and become more independent. Most teenagers have a high sensitivity to rewards. Their brains release more feel-good dopamine from rewards, research shows.
  5. Low sensitivity to punishment — How sensitive are you to the negative effects of alcohol, such as a hangover? Over time, alcohol consumption can decrease people’s susceptibility to negative effects.
  6. Lack of coping skills – Do you choose healthy options such as exercising and talking with others in response to setbacks and negative emotions, or do you turn to alcohol or other behaviors potentially dangerous ? Do you have the skills to change how you feel and think about a negative situation? How well can you tolerate negative emotions?
  7. Prone to negative emotions – People prone to negative emotions are at higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder if they drink. Chronic alcohol consumption can also cause more negative emotions.
  8. Prone to positive emotions – Having generally positive feelings can help protect people against alcohol use disorders. However, some positive people drink to increase their positive feelings.
  9. Expecting a positive outcome from alcohol consumption – Having positive expectations about alcohol consumption may increase risk. Some people expect to feel more social or more excited when drinking.
  10. Not expecting a negative outcome from alcohol consumption – People who do not anticipate negative outcomes from alcohol consumption are at higher risk.
  11. Drinking has become a habit — Drinking has become an ingrained, almost automatic habit that is difficult to break despite negative consequences and attempts to quit.
  12. Drinking cues become rewarding – Drinking buddies, bars, and other things associated with your drinking trigger rewarding feelings and cause alcohol cravings.
  13. Compulsive drinking and difficulty abstaining – You have less ability to resist cravings and control your drinking, even when your drinking leads to problems.

The study, titled “The Etiological, Theoretical, and Ontogenetic Hierarchical Framework of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Translational Systematic Review of Journals,” was published in Psychological Bulletin.

For help and information about substance use disorders, call the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.


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