Is alcoholism hereditary? Medical professionals are still looking for an answer. We know now that addiction is a form of disease. But, with the right counseling and medication, it is treatable.
We’ve been attempting to understand addiction for decades. Scientists are narrowing down the cause of alcoholism. It’s affected by two areas of study. These areas are human genetics and heredity.
There are subtle differences between the two concepts. Therefore, they have to be studied separately.
But, just because addiction is a disease doesn’t mean it’s hereditary. To answer that question, we have to look deeper into alcoholism itself.
Alcohol use goes through stages. First, it starts as physical dependency. Over time, this dependency can become an addiction. At this point, the person’s body “needs” alcohol.
The medical term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder. There appears to be a connection between genetics and a higher risk of the disease. Your risk may be higher if alcoholism runs in the family.
There is a relationship between genetics and alcoholism. But, scientists are still attempting to answer the question, “Is alcoholism hereditary?”.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary or Genetic?
Scientists are still working to discover if alcoholism is hereditary. They are figuring out if it has to do with heredity or genetics.
Some diseases are hereditary. As a result, they exist in the genome. Our genome is the traits that are passed down from generation to generation. These could be things like eye color and hair color. But, they could also make you more likely to have a certain disease.
Other diseases form within people’s genes. These diseases come from mutations in a person’s DNA. These mutations can be brought on by outside factors. They aren’t necessarily passed down.
Looking Into Genetics
Genetics account for 50% of the cause of alcoholism. A person’s genetics may affect the way alcohol breaks down in their body. If their body breaks down alcohol in a way that makes them feel good they may be more likely to abuse the substance.
Studies have shown that alcoholism is linked to people’s DNA. Certain genes affect how the reward center of the brain develops. This reward center is known as the Amygdala.
People with a higher risk of alcohol abuse may have a smaller Amygdala. As a result, they may have trouble knowing when to stop drinking. After a few drinks, their body’s warning signals might shut down.
Serotonin levels are another warning sign. People with unusual serotonin levels may be more likely to exhibit alcoholic behavior.
Serotonin is one of the pleasure chemicals in the brain. It’s a brain chemical that is responsible for regulating mood. It’s also the brain chemical related to depression.
Abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain may affect a person’s risk of alcoholism.
Looking Into Heredity
Genetics is the science and chemistry behind alcoholism. Heredity focuses on your family tree. Children of alcoholics can be 2 times to 4 times more likely to struggle with the disease. But, less than half of the children of alcoholics end up struggling with the disease.
Medical professionals still can’t explain this entirely. It could result from children not inheriting the genes for alcoholism. But, it could also stem from the environment these children were exposed to. Their environment may prevent the genes from expressing.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Family history can increase a person’s risk of alcohol abuse disorder. But, this factor depends on how close the relatives are to each other. One parent struggling with alcoholism can increase a child’s risk by 3 to 4 times.
Extended family members who struggle with alcoholism don’t affect people the same way. Distant relatives have a weaker association with a person’s alcohol abuse. These family connections may affect the genetics associated with alcohol abuse disorder.
An extended family member’s genetic connection for alcoholism is weaker. But, an aunt or uncle struggling with the disease may increase the chances of addiction later in life.
Trends and statistics can also help scientists to answer the question, “Is alcoholism hereditary?”. Studying cases of alcoholism and related diseases can begin to show connections. These links may help determine if alcoholism is hereditary.
Alcoholism has been a problem in the United States for decades. And, that problem continues to grow. It’s estimated that approximately 18 million Americans struggle with alcoholism. That’s 1 in 12 people struggling with alcohol use disorder.
This disease claims about 100,000 lives every year. Long-term alcohol abuse can result in several medical conditions. These include cirrhosis of the liver, kidney damage, diabetes, and a variety of cancers.
Learning the Behavior
Long periods of alcohol abuse can rewire a person’s brain. As a result, they’ll begin to crave alcohol. This begins a person’s physical dependency on the substance.
Continuing to use alcohol can create a higher risk of the disease. This can happen even without a genetic connection. Their brain and environment can contribute to addiction.
Chances of Developing Alcohol Abuse
No one is immune from this disease. Regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol increases your risk. People should try to keep their alcohol intake at manageable levels.
But, what is a manageable level? Drinking responsibly is different for every person. This is because it depends on your size. A 180-200 pound male can have 3 drinks and still be at a .08 blood-alcohol level.
The results would be different for a female. A 140-160 pound female can reach the same level with only 2 drinks. Keep in mind that these numbers are rough estimates.
Time is the only way to get alcohol out of your system. Every 40 minutes you wait will lower your BAC by .01.
Answering ‘Is Alcoholism Hereditary?’
So, is alcoholism hereditary? The answer can be somewhat complex. Medical researchers are beginning to notice a genetic connection between generations. But a person’s environment can be an important factor, as well.
The good news is it’s treatable. No matter how it develops in a person. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder you’re not alone. Contact Just Believe today. We are here to support you and help get your family back to normal.