28 Jul The Connection Between Alcoholism and Genetics
Studies have shown that there is a genetic aspect to the development of alcoholism. People with a family history of alcohol use disorder may be more likely to develop a similar issue. Your genetic structure works as a roadmap for your DNA. It determines your physical features and a certain amount of your behavior and personality as well. The behavioral traits of your parents can also make you genetically predisposed to experience addiction.
Having a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism is obviously not the only reason a person might develop the disorder. Social and environmental factors also play a big part. The genetic part simply raises your risk versus those who do not have a family history of alcoholism. It’s thought that genetic factors contribute half the risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
How Alcoholism and Genetics Are Connected
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a study that found as much as 60 percent of genetic factors influenced a person’s risk for alcoholism. If you have alcoholism in your family, then your risk of becoming an alcoholic is about 50 percent higher than a person with no genetic factors. Another factor to this risk is that some people have a genetic trait that makes them experience more pleasurable effects from alcohol rather than the unpleasant ones. Let’s take a look at the various ways this can work.
• Abnormal serotonin levels have a genetic link to alcohol use disorder
• No physical or mental warning signals of drinking too much is a common trait in those with a genetic history of alcoholism
• People with a genetic link to alcoholism often have a smaller amygdala, which is the brain area that controls emotions and cravings
• Genetic history of mental illness can also make you predisposed to developing alcoholism
Despite the genetic links to alcoholism, it’s not just one gene that’s responsible. It’s many hundreds of genes that work together to raise your risk. However, it’s important to remember that there’s still 50 percent outside of genetic factors. Social and environmental factors play a large part as well.
How Your Environment Affects Your Risk For Alcoholism
A number of environmental factors play a big part in raising your risk of developing alcoholism. Two big ones are having access to alcohol as a child and being exposed to drug or alcohol abuse early. This normalizes using and abusing addictive substances and has a strong effect on a developing child’s brain. A lack of parental supervision and poverty are also contributing factors.
Your social group as a teen can raise your risk if several people in your group drink or use drugs. Peer pressure is a very strong influence on young people. Any type of childhood trauma can also raise your risk. This might include physical or sexual abuse, verbal abuse, being involved in an accident, or anything else traumatic that is ongoing or left a lasting impression.
People who started drinking early are much more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder as an adult.
Is Alcohol Use Disorder Hereditary?
Hereditary and genetic factors are related, but they’re not exactly the same thing. If you have a genetic condition, then you have a genome abnormality. If you have a hereditary disease, then you have a genetic mutation that came from your parents. There is some evidence that indicates a hereditary cause for alcoholism. For example, people who have parents with alcohol use disorder are up to four times more likely to have the same issue. This would mean that a close family history of alcoholism might cause a genetic mutation to be inherited.
On the other hand, it might mean that people growing up in a family with a lot of alcoholism are influenced by it and thus go down that path themselves. As previously mentioned, exposure to alcohol abuse at a young age is one of the top environmental risk factors for alcohol use disorder.
Is There An Alcoholism Gene?
There is no one gene that causes alcoholism, but it’s possible that certain combinations of genes can predispose someone to develop the condition. For example, families with a history of mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia are more likely to have members who also develop alcohol use disorder. Mental disorders are often hereditary, which can potentially exacerbate the risk for alcoholism.
What Are Your Risks?
If you have close relatives suffering from alcoholism, then you have a high risk of developing it as well. Close relatives usually mean your parents, siblings and sometimes your grandparents or aunts and uncles. It’s important to understand that having a genetic risk doesn’t mean a certainty that you will develop alcohol use disorder. You can take some steps to reduce your risk as well. The following are some ways you can help prevent the development of alcoholism:
• Be aware of alcohol use disorder in your close family history
• Know the symptoms of alcohol use disorder
• Maintain healthy relationships with your friends and family
• Develop effective and healthy coping mechanisms for stress
• Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
If you have alcohol use disorder in your family, part of mitigating your risk for developing the condition is knowing the symptoms. Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of unhealthy drinking that involves the following:
• Inability to control how much you drink
• Thinking about alcohol a lot
• Drinking increasingly more alcohol to get the same effect
• Withdrawal symptoms when you stop or reduce drinking
• Continuing to drink heavily despite negative effects in your life
Binge drinking is another unhealthy type of alcohol use. This involves drinking at least five drinks in two hours if you’re a male and four drinks in two hours if you’re a female.
The main warning sign of problem drinking is when it causes significant problems in your life whether financial, social or health-related. If you’re experiencing these problems in relation to alcohol but still can’t quit, then it’s likely you have an addiction.
Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, then it’s time to seek treatment. Staying sober is possible, but it’s often very difficult to do without professional help. Along with immediate treatment, you may also need to participate in aftercare to prevent a relapse of symptoms.
At New Method Wellness we offer inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction as well as detox services. Our addiction therapy programs include evidence-based therapy as well as holistic therapies and everything in between. Our goal is to support our clients from the very beginning of treatment through aftercare and even beyond.