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Is Alcohol Addiction Hereditary?

Alcohol addiction, like all addictions, does have a genetic element associated with it. Unfortunately, this means that, if your parents or someone else in your family suffers from an alcohol use disorder, you are more likely to suffer from one at some point in your life. It can also extend to increased chances of alcohol abuse and addiction when associated with other genetic factors, such as mental illness and additional addictions.

If you believe you or someone you love is at risk of developing an alcohol addiction or has already become an alcoholic, it is important to seek professional treatment in an alcohol rehab center. Alcohol rehab and alcohol detox in Florida offers safe, effective solutions for the effects of alcohol abuse and addiction and can help you learn how to build a strong recovery.

Why Addiction Happens

Many people believe that everything associated with substance abuse and addiction comes down to willpower. They might say things like, “I don’t have an addictive personality,” or “Addicts don’t really want to quit,” or “If you feel like you can’t quit, you just aren’t trying hard enough.” The important thing to understand about this argument, however, is there are certain elements associated with addiction that have nothing to do with a person’s willpower—or perceived lack thereof.

Addiction occurs, as stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, because a person who drinks consistently will experience changes to the way their brain works, causing a once voluntary decision to drink to become involuntary. The reward pathways in the brain become altered so that the individual can only experience pleasure while drinking. They will also experience cravings for the substance and a tolerance for its effects, which will cause them to drink more. Over time, abusive drinking will lead to these effects, which eventually, cause compulsive drinking, one of the strongest signs of alcohol addiction.

Why Some People Become Addicted and Others Don’t

Still, if all people were equally affected by alcohol and equally likely to become addicted, wouldn’t everyone who drinks the same amount become an addict? The truth is, some people can drink consistently without becoming alcoholics while others are not. Why does this occur?

As stated by NIDA, there are three types of factors that cause a person to have a greater chance of becoming an addict if they choose to drink. These are:

  • Biological factors.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Developmental factors.

All of these affect a person’s likelihood of becoming an alcoholic. However, one of these has a much stronger chance of affecting this outcome.

Alcoholism in Your Genetic Makeup: Why Alcohol Addiction Has a Hereditary Element

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 50 to 60 percent of the risk associated with alcoholism is determined by your genetic makeup only. This means if alcoholism runs in your family, you have a much higher chance of developing alcoholism yourself than someone who does not have alcoholism in their genes. However, there are other aspects to this connection.

  • People whose parents are alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves than people who have a more distant relative who was an alcoholic, such as an aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, etc.
  • Other genetic issues can predispose a person to a higher risk of alcoholism. These can include mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and the like.
  • Alcoholism is a genetically complex disease. There is no one “alcoholic gene” that a person either has or doesn’t have. Though scientists have performed research for years to determine if certain genetic patterns lead to or can even predict the outcome of alcoholism, this has never been fully determined.
  • Alcoholism is not independent of other addictive diseases. If someone in your family suffered from another type of substance use disorder, it increases your risk of addiction on all levels, not just of that substance. Although you might be more likely to use that substance as well, you might diverge in your substance of abuse based on other factors.

Risk factors are often the best way for us to be able to determine if someone has a higher probability than someone else of becoming an alcoholic. When a person has multiple risk factors associated with alcoholism, it can be important to be aware of this issue.

What Are the Other Risks Associated with Alcoholism?

Although heredity is an extremely serious factor associated with alcoholism, it isn’t the only one. Some people become alcoholics without having any close family members who also struggled with the disease. Other factors associated with alcoholism and other types of addiction include environment and development.

These can also interact with the genetic element of alcohol addiction. For example, as stated previously, if one of your parents was an alcoholic, you will be more likely to become addicted to alcohol as well than if you had a distant relative who suffered from the disease. Part of this is the similarity in your genetic makeup with your parent while part of it is likely based on your years of seeing your parent drink to excess while you were young (developmental) or on your ability to access alcohol easily (environmental).

Of course, some people become addicts without a family member who suffers from addiction, simply based on environmental and developmental factors. And in some cases, a person who has little to no risk factors can still become an alcoholic, based on the fact that consistent alcohol abuse can change the way the brain works overtime. As such, it is important to remember that, although there is a strong genetic link associated with alcoholism, one does not have to be genetically predisposed in order to become an alcoholic.

What Should I Do If Someone in My Family Was an Alcoholic?

Are you concerned that, because of an alcohol use disorder in your family, you have a high risk of alcoholism too? Does this mean you should avoid drinking completely? Perhaps. But it is often best to consider your situation as an individualized one, which is the same thing that should be done for an addict looking for help.

  • First, consider how serious the risk factors are. Did you have a parent—or two—who suffered from addiction? Did your experience as a child cause you to feel a certain way about alcohol or alcohol use?
  • Consult a doctor or a therapist. It can be helpful to understand the extent of your risk of alcoholism and to be aware of how your past, as well as your genetic makeup, affects you.
  • Finally, ask yourself if you think drinking is safe for you. If you think it is, make sure you check in with yourself often. Ensure that you are always able to control your drinking, that you drink in moderation, and that you are healthy. If not, it may be better for you to abstain from drinking, but this is different for every person.

Alcoholism Runs in Families

Unfortunately, this is the truth of the matter, and people who have loved ones who struggle with alcoholism are more likely to develop the same condition themselves. As such, you should be aware of this possibility. If you are concerned your drinking has gotten out of control, it is never too late to seek help.

Summer House Detox Center offers safe, inpatient alcohol detox treatment as well as a smooth transition into alcohol rehab. Recovery is possible for everyone, and it’s important to know that you can stop living a life ruled by alcohol abuse. Call 800-719-1090 to speak with an addiction specialist, any time of the day. Now, you can begin your recovery in the best way possible and learn how to obtain a solid foundation for a healthy, sober life.


Jacky Montecillo

About The Author:  Jacky Montecillo – A coffee lover, writer, reader and typical travel aficionado. She loves finding the best eats (and drinks), and very enthusiastic and passionate about life and people’s unique stories.

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