Is Alcoholism Hereditary? The Ultimate Guide
If you’re reading this article, you likely have parents or influential family members who were (or are) alcoholics and are wondering if it’s their fault that you have certain dispositions. You want to understand where your behavior patterns come from, which means you already have a great handle on your personal growth.
If you think you need to quit drinking to further your personal development, you’re in the right place. Not only is there a course that doesn’t involve monthly meetings, but this blog is committed to answering your burning questions such as: is alcoholism hereditary? Can you beat your genetics? And more.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary? What the Research Says
When it comes to human behavior research, you can be assured that researchers are working every day to better understand the human experience. However, since there are so many variables in life (like culture, genetics, age, etc), you’re never going to get one definitive answer.
The best we can do to answer this question is to say that research points to yes: alcoholism can be genetic.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, genetics contribute to about 50% of the risk of a child developing alcoholism. This matches with the current understanding of nature vs. nurture, which most sociologists agree are about 50%.
Which is to say, if a child was brought up with the genetic disposition to alcoholism but wasn’t raised in a home with active alcoholics, they’re less likely to be an alcoholic themselves (and vice versa).
Is There a Gene for Alcoholism?
No, not that we know of. The Human Genome project finished mapping the genome in 2003, but there’s always a chance research emergest to prove this claim wrong.
While there isn’t one alcoholism gene, there are hereditary factors that make people more likely to abuse alcohol. Those genes refer to mental health issues like depression, low tolerance for stress, and anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, these illnesses increase your susceptibility to alcoholism by up to 50%, depending on your environment.
In the social sciences, we refer to things that increase your susceptibility as “risk factors” and those that lower it as “protective factors. Let’s go over that now.
Risk Factors to Developing Alcoholism
We’ve taken a look at the genetic contributions to alcohol use disorder (AUD) above, so now let’s look at the environmental factors and how they can add up.
To summarize, genetic risk factors for AUD include:
- 50% risk of inherited alcoholism
- Inherited mental illnesses
- Low genetic tolerance for stress
Those are things that no one can control, not even the most well-meaning parents. Parents can only control environmental factors (to an extent). Environmental factors are the “nurture” in nature vs. nurture, and if combined with genetic risk factors, can significantly increase alcoholism risk.
Environmental risk factors for AUD:
- Traumatizing events in childhood
- Trauma later in life
- Alcohol use in the home
- Social drinking culture
- Parental supervision quality
- Developed (non-genetic) mental health disorders
- Relationship issues
- A partner who abuses alcohol
- Low self-esteem
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Drug use by parents, peers, self
- High-conflict home environment
… and honestly, the list goes on and on. Anything that makes a negative impact on your life can increase your susceptibility to becoming an alcoholic. However, there is good news.
The human psyche is resilient and even one or two protective factors can go a long way in decreasing your risks of alcoholism.
Protective Risks Against Developing Alcoholism
There are no math equations for how protective factors work. One protective factor doesn’t automatically cancel out one risk factor. It’s more about the quality of the protective factor and how impactful the person in question rates it, themselves.
Protective factors include:
- A good relationship with parents, including parental monitoring
- Parental support
- Involvement in School
- Quality of school/peer relationships
- Healthy self-esteem
- Culture of healthy drinking norms
- Resources in the Community
- Secure role models or attachment figures
The more of these you can check off, or provide for your children/grandchildren (if you’re worried), the better their chances are at developing a healthy relationship with alcohol.
If you’re already worried you set a bad example, it may be too late to raise your children in an alcohol-free home. But it’s NEVER too late to show the people around you what it looks like to recover from alcohol abuse disorders.
You getting sober because you want to will not only inspire your friends and family, but it will help you heal relationships and set a great example for others in your life who could benefit from doing the same thing.
Finding the Strength to Get Sober: What Resources are Available?
While Alcoholics Anonymous has been successful for millions of people, it’s not right for everyone. Some people don’t like the focus on God or a higher power, while others just don’t have the time to go to meetings regularly. But AA and rehab aren’t your only options.
I offer a free webinar that walks you through the ways getting sober can improve your life, as well as how my program can help you get there – without the things AA and rehab make you do.
Signing up for the webinar is free and online – you have nothing to lose.
Your Life Without Alcohol
In this article, we answered the question, is alcoholism hereditary? And found that the answer is: it can be, but isn’t always. We’ve looked at the risk and protective factors that influence the development of AUD.
If you know you already have AUD or are scared/concerned about your relationship with alcohol, sign up for my free webinar.
Your freedom awaits.