Chat Day Live Question on Alcohol Dependence

Video Length: 3:13
[Jack Stein talking]
This year we’re doing something
really interesting and new.

We’ve asked for some of you
to record some key questions
you have about drugs and
alcohol and send them to us, and

we’re going to answer
them with a live feed from

a scientist right here.

So, let’s go to our first
question, which is from Bryce.

[Bryce speaking]
I was wondering why some people
become dependent on alcohol.

[Jack Stein talking]
Bryce’s question was a terrific
one, to answer it--and it’s all

about dependence on alcohol--
we’ve got a specialist here.

And we’ve got Dr. Aaron, who’s
with the National Institute on

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

And Dr. Aaron, thanks
for being here.

[Aaron White speaking]
Thank you, it’s my

[Jack Stein talking]
Bryce asked a really important,
interesting question, which is,

why do some people
become dependent or

addicted to alcohol?

[Aaron White speaking]
I think that’s a very
important question, and

it’s a complicated answer.

There’s several things that
we know increase the likelihood

that you’ll develop
a problem with alcohol.

Two of the most important
ones are family history of

alcoholism, and also how early
in life you start to drink.

We know that if you have
a family history of alcoholism,

your odds are higher of
developing a problem with

alcohol at some
point in your life.

And we know that the earlier in
life a person starts to drink,

the greater the odds
they’ll develop a problem.

So, it’s very important
to understand that one of

the best things you can
do to protect yourself from

developing a problem
with alcohol is to delay

your alcohol use
until 21 or older.

That’s about when the
brain finishes developing.

And so, it is a condition
that can develop and affect

your life in negative ways,
but you can also take steps to

prevent that from
happening in your life.

[Jack Stein talking]
Great, now, so, you broke it
down to two major things,

your environment and
also the age you start.

That’s right.

[Jack Stein talking]
Are you saying that there’s a
genetic component to becoming--
having problems with alcohol?

[Aaron White speaking]
Absolutely, there is
a genetic component, and

it’s actually pretty prominent.

Particularly when you
look at the age at which

someone starts drinking.

For instance, if you’re 14
or 15 years old and you have

your first drink of alcohol, if
you have a family history of

alcoholism, you’ve got about a
50/50 shot that you’re going to

develop a problem with alcohol
at some point in your life.

Even without a family history,
if you start at that age,

you still have about a one
in three shot at developing

a problem with alcohol.

But the longer you
wait to start drinking,

whether you have a
family history or not,

your odds of developing
a problem go down.

[Jack Stein talking]
OK, that’s terrific
advice, Dr. Aaron.

We really appreciate
you being here today.

I think we learned a lot in
a short amount of time around

what happens to people,
particularly if they start

young in drinking
alcohol and the consequences.