Many people wonder if there is an alcoholism gene that automatically gets passed from generation to generation and determines whether people will drink in an unhealthy way. It’s true that certain genes do make some people more vulnerable to excessive alcohol use, but it’s also true that not everyone who is at risk for alcoholism will become an alcoholic. Research clearly shows that there can be a genetic predisposition for alcoholism and that alcohol use disorder (AUD) can run in families, but there are many other factors at play.
Genetics play a role, but so does early childhood experience. Awareness of risk factors can help in understanding alcoholism. People who hail from families where alcoholism is prevalent or who have loved ones who have been in alcohol addiction treatment centers must be vigilant and aware of the possible risks they face due to addiction in their family. But there is growing evidence that childhood trauma, when left untreated, can also impact an individual’s use of alcohol if they turn to the bottle to soothe internal pain.
How a Family History of Alcohol Addiction Can Impact Drinking Habits
People who have close relatives battling AUD are at greater risk for developing the same problem. That’s because of genetics, and it’s often referred to as “alcoholism running in the family.” However, having a genetic predisposition for AUD does not guarantee you will become addicted to alcohol; environment and lifestyle decisions can also play a role. A positive, supportive home life and healthy relationships can help protect individuals from the issue of alcoholism.
Some of the factors that can contribute to a person’s risk for AUD include:
- Chronic exposure – People who are raised in environments with an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent may be influenced by the behaviors they see in their mother and/or father and the chaos in their homes that occurs when caregivers constantly drink or take drugs. However, abuse and neglect of any kind can also result in complex trauma in someone’s life.
- Early trauma and traumatic incidents – A child who has a deeply upsetting life experience and no reliable adult to help them through it is at risk for trauma. This is often the case when one parent is struggling with alcoholism and addiction. In addition to exposure to caregiver addiction, early trauma can include domestic abuse of all kinds and sexual abuse. Trauma can also involve things like loss, natural disasters, accidents, and injuries at a young age.
- Attachment trauma – Caregivers who are unable or unavailable to tend to an infant due to alcoholism, addiction, or depression can have a lasting impact on the child. Babies who do not get their needs met by caregivers can develop trauma related to attachment to caregivers. This can be carried into adolescence and adulthood and can lead them to unbalanced adult relationships.
Can You Be Predisposed to Alcoholism?
Not everyone born to parents with alcohol use disorder or in a family where relatives have been in alcoholism treatment centers will go on to develop or acquire a drinking problem. In fact, many people exposed to the trauma of growing up around alcoholism will seek a lifestyle in the opposite direction.
Alcoholism does not appear to be something that occurs among people with certain personality traits, but it could be a result of inherited impulsivity. It’s believed that about 30% of impulsivity is genetic. There are many ways to measure impulsivity, but you can see it most clearly in family history. A grandfather may be an alcoholic, a father could be a gambler, and the next generation may have an issue with opioid addiction. In these cases, it comes through the genes as impulsivity, not a specific addiction. Ultimately, it can be a genetic predisposition, but not a genetic predisposition for alcoholism.
How Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Promises Behavioral Health Can Help
At Promises Behavioral Health, we offer a range of residential treatment programs for individuals battling addiction and alcoholism. Our staff has decades of experience in treating individuals with a variety of addictions, and we understand the role of trauma in alcoholism. Learning more about if there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism is an important first step, but treatment is the only way to help someone take back control of their life and put an end to this destructive cycle.
Our team will work with each client to develop a personalized treatment plan that best meets their needs and addresses any underlying trauma or mental health issues. Reach out to our team at 844.875.5609 or connect with us online to get started.