woman talking with friend over wine wonders is alcoholism hereditary

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

People often say that alcoholism doesn’t discriminate—regardless of age, race, or gender, anyone can form a dependency on alcohol. Despite that, however, it’s just as commonly said that alcoholism “runs in the family,” but how, or where, does it actually run? While certain biological and environmental factors can increase your chances of developing an alcohol addiction, many wonder, “is alcoholism hereditary?”

If there are precursors to alcoholism, genetic or otherwise, finding them early on could help the millions of Americans with alcohol use disorder (AUD), with only a fraction receiving treatment. Finding out your personal risk or that of someone you know can make for more effective alcohol addiction treatment. Learn about the kind of treatment available at Promises Behavioral Health and how we can help.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

If a family has a generational history of alcohol abuse, then it’s logical to ask: is alcoholism hereditary in nature? Simply put, while having close relatives who have struggled with alcoholism or substance abuse issues can increase your chances of developing AUD, alcoholism is not linked directly to genetics. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, meaning that they can drink relatively little yet still experience intense euphoria during intoxication. Biological factors, such as weight or health, can impact how your body responds to alcohol. Those who are more efficient about their alcohol consumption might find it easier to maintain an addiction due to lower alcohol expenses. In addition to euphoria, these genetic factors also influence when alcohol poisoning occurs. Symptoms of alcohol intoxication include:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Prolonged time between breaths or heartbeats
  • Passing out
  • Seizures

In short, while there is no gene or trait that predisposes someone to be an alcoholic, genetically transferable features like body mass can impact alcohol’s effects.

Family History of Alcoholism

On average, children of alcoholic parents are four times more likely to engage in alcoholism at some point in their lives. So, if genes have so little to do with alcoholism, where does this apparent familial tendency come from? The answer seems to have more to do with environmental factors than genetic ones. For instance, observing an alcoholic parent from a young age can ingrain the idea that alcohol can be turned to during periods of stress or uncertainty. Learned behavior can work inversely as well, steering many children of alcoholics away from drinking, having personally seen its negative effects on their parents.

So, is alcoholism hereditary? In principle, alcohol doesn’t “run in the family” any more than it “skips a generation.” It’s an apparent pattern with some statistical basis, but ultimately is not a fact of life. Being the child of an alcoholic parent doesn’t sentence you to a life of alcoholism, but be wary that it does increase your odds compared to the national average. Keep in mind, too, that being an alcoholic parent means taking on the responsibility for your child’s well-being and managing that increased risk as well.

Treatment Is Available at Promises

Treating alcoholism on one’s own is a grueling process. Most of the discomfort comes from a process of detoxification, or alcohol withdrawal, in which the body adjusts to a sudden lack of alcohol intake. This part of recovery presents a serious roadblock to recovery, as internal pain and discomfort work as your body’s form of discouragement. Some of the symptoms typically experienced during withdrawal are:

  • Shakes and tremors
  • Insomnia and exhaustion
  • Aches and pains
  • Digestive issues
  • Dehydration
  • Mood changes

Alcoholism can do irreconcilable damage to your relationships, your health, and your career. While recovery is always possible, don’t hesitate to reach out to Promises Behavioral Health for our alcohol addiction treatment. During treatment, you have the time necessary to focus on your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Inpatient and outpatient programs offer evidence-based and holistic treatment to ensure you learn how to handle triggers and cravings during recovery. To learn more about how alcoholism is treated, reach out today at 844.875.5609.

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