Alcoholism - Is It Hereditary?

 Alcoholism is influenced by both hereditary and environmental factors. Addictions, particularly addictions to alcohol tend to run in families and it is known that genes play a role in that process. Research has shown in recent years that people who have/had alcoholic parents are more likely to develop the same disorder themselves. Interestingly, men have a greater propensity towards alcoholism in this circumstance than women.

People with lowered inhibitions are at an even greater risk for becoming alcoholics. The two main characteristics for becoming addicted to alcohol stem from having an immediate family member who is an alcoholic and having a high-risk personality. A person with a high-risk personality is one where he or she has lower inhibitions and thrives on taking risks in most all situations. If a person comes from a family with one or more alcoholics and likes to take risks, they should recognized that they are at what is considered high risk for becoming an alcoholic.

Recent studies have determined that genetics plays a vital role in the development of alcoholism but the exact genes or genetic pathways to addiction have not been found. At this time, it is thought that the genetic tendency toward alcoholism in a person does not ensure that he or she will become an alcoholic but instead just means that those people feel the effects of the alcohol more intensely and quickly. In effect, the determination of genetic risk is only a determination of higher risk toward the addiction and not necessarily an indication of future alcoholism.

There was a gene discovered in 1990 called the DRD2 gene. This is the first gene that has proven to have any link toward affecting the outcome of alcoholism in humans. Again, considering the way this particular gene works, the person with the DRD2 gene would be thought to have a greater pull towards the effects of alcohol compared to someone without the gene but having DRD2 does not guarantee alcoholism in the person.

The urgent desire to detect a gene responsible for alcoholism is due in part to the urgent need to help determine people who are at high risk when they are children. It is thought that this could help stop them from becoming alcoholics in the first place. It has been proven that these people should not ever take their first drink of alcohol but with children drinking alcohol at younger and younger ages it is not always possible to stop them before discovering their genetic tendency toward alcoholism. If this can be determined at an early age and children raised to understand that taking that first drink for them could very likely send them down the road to alcoholism, it may cut down on the number of alcoholics in the future.

Regardless of a genetic tendency toward alcoholism, it is still a conscious decision to choose to drink and to get drunk. It has been said that the person with the genetic predisposition to alcoholism is an alcoholic at birth whether or not he or she ever takes a drink. Taking the drink initiates the disease into its active phase. The ability to stop drinking before becoming addicted lies ultimately in the hands of the drinker.

This article is to be used for information purposes only. It is not a diagnosis, treatment or cure for alcoholism or any other physical, emotional or mental disorder. You should always consult a health professional for proper diagnosis, treatment or cure for any physical, emotional or mental disorder.