Why It Can Affect People Differently

Watching people get drunk has long been a source of comedy and unpredictability. A drunk person is at times funny and outspoken. At times they’re angry and reckless. In the same way alcohol can affect people differently, alcoholism can affect people in vastly different ways.

What Does ‘Alcoholism’ Really Mean?

Before we look at why alcohol affects people differently, we have to clear up what “alcoholism” really means. As a condition, it is so common that misunderstandings and misconceptions can seriously damage our understanding of what it is and why it appears differently from person to person.

In an in-depth report on alcoholism, The New York Times identified the following criteria for what constitutes alcoholism.[i]

They listed the following:

Unsurprisingly, this is an incredibly common condition. Up to 15 percent of the American population fits the criteria for a problem drinker.[ii]

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Why Is Alcoholism Different From Person to Person?

The Centers for Disease Control lists a number of reasons why people have varying reactions to alcohol including the following:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Physical condition
  • Family history[iii]

Family History and Genetics

Family history is a major factor of alcohol problems. The University of Rochester Medical Center explains that alcohol breaks down in the body because of three enzymes. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism identifies two of the primary enzymes.[iv] However, not everyone has the gene that produces these enzymes, meaning that people process alcohol differently.

People of East Asian heritage don’t often have this gene. They respond poorly to alcohol—primarily by feeling nausea and a rapid heartbeat—even after only moderate drinking. An example like this suggests why one group of people may not have the same experience with alcohol as others. Their body prevents them from consuming the amount of alcohol that would be needed to cause addiction.

Since the lack of this gene is hereditary, the chances of being affected by alcoholism due to family history are high.The 264-273.htm" target="_blank">National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that there are over 50 studies that show that alcoholism runs in families.[v]

Weight and Size

One’s weight also plays a role in deciding why certain people are more affected by alcohol than others. Body weight is a factor in how much water is in your system. When consumed, alcohol distributes through the body via the water in the blood. A high amount of water in a person’s blood means the alcohol is diluted. A low amount of water means the alcohol is more concentrated.

If a smaller person consumes the same amount of alcohol as someone larger in height and weight, the smaller person has a higher ratio of alcohol in their blood. This puts them at a greater risk of alcoholism because they can only drink a small amount before getting drunk. Someone of greater weight can usually drink more because of the higher amount of water in their system.


Alcoholism also has different effects based on your ethnicity. The NIAAA pinpointed culture and genetics as reasons why some ethnic groups are more prone to the problems of alcoholism than others.[vi] As mentioned above, people belonging to certain ethnic groups do not drink as much and experience less alcoholism than other ethnic groups.

For this reason, people of Chinese descent are much less likely to binge drink than people of Korean descent—around seven percent, compared to 30 percent. This is per a study published in the journal of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism affect people in many different ways. Regardless of your personal circumstances, how you react to the effects of the condition will be unique.

Whatever the factors and whatever the effects, there is a place you can go to for help, answers, support and a way out of your predicament. Here at The Canyon, we have admissions coordinators standing by to talk with you about what you need to know about overcoming alcoholism. Call us today at our 24 hour, toll-free helpline, 424-387-3118 to take your first step toward dealing with alcoholism.

All calls are private and confidential.

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[i] http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alcoholism/print.html

[ii] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/157163.php

[iii] http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#reactDiff

[iv] http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA72/AA72.htm

[v] 264-273.htm" target="_blank">http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/264-273.htm

[vi] http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-1/87-94.htm