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.