Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

What can increase your risk of becoming dependent on alcohol

Things that increase your risk of alcohol dependence include:

  • a family history of alcohol dependence
  • starting to drink alcohol at a young age
  • experiencing abuse, including neglect or trauma in childhood
  • being male
  • having mental health problems - for example, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • using tobacco, illegal drugs, or prescription medicines
  • living in an environment where alcohol is easy to get, or people drink a lot

Even if none of these apply to you, you can still become dependent on alcohol.

Non-urgent advice: Speak with a GP if:

  • you are worried that you may be at risk of alcohol dependence

Alcohol dependence in families

Alcohol dependence runs in families. If alcohol dependence is part of everyday life in your family, it can increase your risk of becoming dependent.

Certain genes may also increase the chance of you becoming dependent on alcohol. These genes can be passed from parents to children. But the genes only increase the risk. It does not mean you will become dependent on alcohol if you have the genes.


If there is a history of alcohol dependence in your family, you may need to take extra care with alcohol.

How to reduce the risk of alcohol dependence

Stay within the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines. Have 2 to 3 alcohol-free days a week and avoid binge drinking.

Alcohol dependence can develop slowly. It can be affected by some or all of the things listed above. It can also develop from drinking often to relax and cope with stress or to wind down.


If you are worried about your alcohol use, take our alcohol test to find out what type of drinker you are.

Non-urgent advice: Get help with problem alcohol use

Freephone 1800 459 459 for confidential advice

Page last reviewed: 23 September 2022
Next review due: 23 September 2025