Is Alcoholism Genetic?
Many signs point to “yes,” but most scientists agree there isn’t a definitive answer when it comes to the connection between alcoholism and genetics. In fact, there is no one single gene that is directly responsible for alcoholism. The medical term for alcoholism is “Alcohol use disorder” (AUD). DNA determines everything from our hair color to our personality traits. It is important to understand, however, that there is a big difference between genetic diseases and hereditary diseases. Changes in genes (mutations, for example) cause medical problems while some medical problems are hereditary, which means they’re caused by problems with genes and passed on from parents.
Common Factors that Cause Alcoholism
Genetics are only half of the underlying reasons for alcohol use disorder. Environment accounts for the other half: social situations, peer pressure, and relationships all play significant factors in alcoholism. Still, there’s no denying that genetics play a chief role in it all. There are countless genes in a person’s DNA that might increase the risk for developing an AUD. But it’s not as simple as finding a gene that “flips” alcohol on like a light switch. Identifying these genes is like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Each is responsible in its own small way for playing a larger role. And studies confirm this, showing that certain combinations of genes can result in alcoholism.
Ways to Avoid Alcoholism
No matter which way you look at the role genetics play in alcoholism, the children of alcoholics face an uphill battle. Research studies show that these children have 50% chance of suffering from alcoholism than kids who don’t have alcoholic parents. Which says less about alcoholism, per se, as it does the insidious biology behind addiction. Genetics don’t reveal who will and who won’t be alcoholics and addicts. Instead, we need to look at genetics as a roadmap of risks. Meaning, it’s about likelihoods and tendencies more than definites and absolutes. Genetics give us a window into what lies ahead when it comes to alcoholism and addiction, but it doesn’t condemn anyone to addiction in all the same ways it doesn’t promise salvation.
By understanding the underlying elements and factors of your genetic makeup, you can better navigate your own personal minefield and make smarter, more proactive decisions with that information. In order to avoid alcoholism, you can enjoy healthier friendships, build stronger family bonds, get relationship counseling, self-regulate your stress, and better understand all the symptoms of addiction before they begin.
After nearly two decades of drinking and destroying just about every relationship in my life, I decided to get help. I didn’t know what to expect (and in some ways, I still don’t), but getting sober has been the most rewarding, fulfilling decision I’ve ever made. In the years since I entered treatment, secured an AA sponsor, and forged friendships in sobriety that rival all the others in my life, I feel like a completely different person. It’s as if I woke up in another person’s life. I’m a married father of three young children who lives in Columbus, Ohio, along with a bossy cat named Dr. No.
Most of my recovery has been spent writing about my experiences, and I’ve been fortunate to have my work picked up by The Fix, AfterParty Magazine, The Literary Review, and The Live Oak Review, among others. I want to help others find meaningful, lasting sobriety in any way that I can, which is part of the reason I’m so committed to Genius Recovery. More than that, though, I sincerely believe in the vision, aims and purpose of Genius Recovery. I’m as passionate about recovery as I am about discovering levels to my life that I didn’t know existed. After all, addiction recovery is about hope as much as it is about possibility. Through my writing, I hope to guide others to discover what’s possible for them, too.– Paul