Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder has been directly linked to various genetic factors. Individuals are more likely to develop alcoholism if there’s a family history of it than those without. However, whether alcoholism and the family history are the cause or not, seeking treatment offers the best chance at recovery.
A chronic brain disease, addiction affects the reward and motivation centers in the brain. One of the most prevalent diseases in the U.S., alcoholism affects almost 1 in 12 adults. In addition, alcohol use disorder kills approximately 100,000 Americans every year.
But is alcoholism genetic? Scientists and experts have debated this question for decades.
Alcohol use disorder or alcoholism is a disease where a person is unable to control their excessive drinking. Furthermore, alcohol is highly addictive and causes long-term harmful effects to the body and mind.
Although drinking alcohol may start as an occasional escape from stress, it can quickly turn to dependence and addiction. For example, a person may notice they drink more to cope with negative feelings. When their drinking interferes with work and relationships, they have become dependent on alcohol.
Genes affect many different aspects of a person’s life. From physical features to behaviors and more, genetics are responsible. For this reason, when asked is alcoholism hereditary, many experts say yes.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40 to 60 percent of factors that lead to alcoholism are due to genetics. As a result, the effects of alcoholism and the family can be passed down from generation to generation.
While research shows almost 50 percent of the cause of alcohol use disorder is genetic, there isn’t one specific gene that makes someone predisposed. There are actually hundreds of genes that increase the risk of alcoholism.
From a medical perspective, genetics and heredity are linked. For example, parents pass their genes to their kids, and the kids inherit their genes. But, a genetic disease is an abnormality in a genome, while a hereditary disease is an inherited genetic mutation. In short, the debate is whether alcoholism is from a set of genes or mutations in some genes.
While genetics are almost fifty percent of the reason people develop alcohol use disorder, environmental factors also play a role. Some factors that increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder include:
Above all, environmental factors are believed to be the most significant influence in developing alcoholism. Even if alcoholism runs in the family and is hereditary, environmental factors ultimately influence developing alcohol use disorder.
Furthermore, environmental factors can also lower the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. Although a person is genetically high-risk for alcoholism, positive parental involvement, community resources, and succeeding in school can prevent a person from misusing alcohol.
The most significant role in alcohol use disorder, behavioral genes are also passed from one generation to another. Alcoholism and the family history of mental illness commonly co-occur due to using alcohol as a coping mechanism. For this reason, a thorough assessment for addiction treatment will include mental health issues.
Common co-occurring mental health struggles include:
Many studies lead researchers to believe that, yes, alcoholism is hereditary. Meaning the disease of alcoholism is because of specific mutated genes that were passed down from the parents. For example, a person whose parents struggle with alcohol use disorder is two to four times more likely to also struggle with alcoholism.
However, if a person grows up around people misusing alcohol, they can also develop alcohol use disorder. From a young age, this environment can influence the future of addiction in a person as well as alcoholism and the family.
An estimated 139.7 million Americans currently drink alcohol. This makes alcohol one of the most commonly used substances. Unfortunately, it is also widely misused.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2019 found almost 16 million Americans drink alcohol heavily. While approximately 14.5 million struggled with alcohol use disorder. However, with the recent isolation and restrictions from Covid-19, these numbers, unfortunately, have possibly increased.
Furthermore, 10 percent of children have a parent with alcohol use disorder. At the same time, 1.4 million children live in a single-parent household where the parent struggles with alcoholism.
Does alcoholism run in your family? Do you also drink alcohol? It can sometimes be challenging to recognize when drinking has become a problem.
Are you wondering if a friend or family member is struggling with alcohol use disorder? If you recognize any of the following, it may be time to talk about seeking addiction treatment.
If you or someone you love can answer yes to one or more of the above, it is essential to seek help before things worsen.
If alcoholism is genetic and hereditary, then is recovery also associated with family genetics? Studies are exploring the influences genes have on a person’s response to various addiction treatments. For example, using naltrexone helps some quit drinking but not everyone. Is this because of genetics?
While alcoholism and the family unit play a significant role in developing an alcohol use disorder, it doesn’t mean you automatically will. In fact, there are various preventative measures that a person can take to reduce the risk.
Ways to reduce the risk of hereditary alcoholism include:
Accepting that you have a problem is the very first step in recovery. This is not an easy step. You must admit that drinking is ruining your life. While some people think they can just cut back on their drinking, it is essential to stop drinking altogether.
But what if you tried to quit and couldn’t? Then it is time to seek treatment at a facility such as Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness. Common programs to help those struggling with alcohol use disorder include:
Most people struggling with alcohol use disorder cannot quit drinking on their own. It is not for lack of trying, but the withdrawal symptoms that become too much to handle. For this reason, medical detox is typically the first stage of recovery.
Often performed in inpatient settings, detox programs typically take a week to complete. A comprehensive detox program combines psychotherapy and medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and support the recovery journey.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
Continuum of Care programs follows their members from the moment they walk in the door and well into lasting recovery. Members “step down” into less intensive treatment as they continue through recovery. However, members can also “step up” the intensity of treatment when needed.
Continuum of Care services include:
Behavioral therapies are often used in both individual and group therapy settings. Those who misuse alcohol are typically addicted to the act of drinking. For this reason, they need to learn coping skills to avoid alcohol.
Common behavioral therapies include:
Individual therapy is possibly the most important part of addiction treatment. In psychotherapy, members work through past trauma, build healthy coping skills, and reduce the risk of recurrence of use. Psychotherapy is also recommended for long-term treatment to achieve Recovery for Life.
Some people struggling with alcohol use disorder need extra support to maintain recovery. For this reason, the FDA has approved several medications to use in the treatment of alcoholism. These medications include:
Are you or a loved one struggling with alcoholism? At Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center, we offer comprehensive and personalized treatment to help our members achieve Recovery for Life. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.