If you have relatives who abuse alcohol, you might wonder if the problem runs in the family. All human characteristics are governed by our genetic makeup. Both our behavioral traits, like aggression, and our physical features, like eye color, are determined by our DNA. Our parents pass these genes down to us. But does alcoholism also get passed down? Continue reading to learn more about alcohol addiction and genetics.
Alcoholism is not caused by just one specific gene. A person’s DNA contains hundreds of genes that could increase their risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Since each of these genes contributes only a small amount to the overall picture, identifying them is challenging. However, research has shown that particular gene combinations are strongly associated with alcoholism.
Additionally, behavioral genes that are passed down may affect a tendency toward alcoholism. People with a family history of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression, are more likely to experience these conditions themselves. Substance abuse as a coping mechanism is more likely to occur in people with mental illness, and since mental illnesses can be inherited (and influenced by the environment), we can see how there is an intricate relationship between genetics and addiction.
Our decisions are influenced by the interaction between our environment and inherited behaviors. Some people are sensitive to stress, which makes it more difficult for them to handle an unhealthy relationship or a demanding job. When a traumatic event occurs, some people use alcohol as a form of self-medication.
Even those with a high genetic propensity for substance abuse must first be motivated to do so by a nonhereditary factor. Environmental factors, like stress at work, are frequently the starting point for alcohol abuse.
The more risk factors someone has, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol use disorder or addiction. Additionally, there are safeguards that lessen a person’s risk. Environmental or biological factors serve as both risk and protective factors.
The risk of becoming an alcoholic is highest for people whose families have a history of alcoholism. If several members of your family suffer from alcoholism or other substance use disorders, you may have inherited the genes that make you vulnerable. Your risk increases the more blood relatives you have who struggle with alcohol.
You should seek treatment as soon as you can if you have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and have shown symptoms of the disorder. The future social and environmental factors that may lead to an alcohol problem can be addressed with counseling and support.
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