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Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Written by Seth Fletcher on October 12, 2022
Last update: May 15, 2024

Quite the question, isn’t it? However, you’ve probably heard before that addiction like alcoholism can be hereditary. Is it true? Let’s dig deep into alcoholism to uncover what researchers says, what the mitigating factors are, whether they be personal or environmental, and what part family history of alcohol intake and genetic predisposition for alcohol play in all of this. 

Table of contents
1. Genetics and Alcoholism Risk: What Does Research Say?
2. Personal Characteristics
3. Environmental Factors in Alcoholism Risk
4. Family Dynamics and Inheritance 

Genetics and Alcoholism Risk: What Does Research Say?

Do some of your family members struggle with alcohol addiction and you’re wondering if you have risk factors because of it? The details on whether alcoholism is hereditary or not are not yet perfectly known by scientists, but certain studies confirm that some aspects can be linked to genetics. Let’s simplify the data:

  • Over 400 parts of the information in your genes contain elements pertaining to or that can affect alcohol misuse and ingestion symptoms or effects. Of the already multiple aspects to take into consideration to answer the question, imagine that these 400 parts can also be affected by 566 variants. Getting a straight answer as to why you start drinking too much is virtually impossible!
  • Alcohol tolerance consists of needing more and more of your preferred substance to feel the same effect. This element of alcohol problems has been deemed unrelated to genetics. On the other hand, the fact that you can’t handle alcohol or have health issues when ingesting it is hereditary, however, and it’s called alcohol metabolism.
  • Family history does play a part in how alcohol affects you, more so through a direct mother/father and son/daughter genetic transmission. Studies have shown it may also sometimes skip a generation!
  • Keep in mind that because your family is struggling with alcohol abuse doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily develop it too, just like you can develop it even if nobody experienced it before you!

The important element to take into consideration is the fact that you’re not born with a disorder just because it’s in your genes, you are simply predisposed to developing it because of other factors we’ll investigate further.

Personal Characteristics

Personal factors can also play a role in the alcohol addiction you may develop. For example, what is the age you first consumed booze? Was it very young or later in life when your judgment was better formed to control your potentially addictive ingestion

What type of peer groups do you associate with? Whom do you hang out with? Are they the type to drink a lot? Does their idea of fun rhyme with a hangover? 

Do you suffer from mental health issues or are you predisposed to any? Personal psychological factors can foster an environment leading to more frequent substance abuse cases.

Environmental Factors in Alcoholism Risk

It’s not all about you directly. There is also the environment in which you live in and evolve in daily, and the culture that surrounds you at work, at home, during your leisure time… 

Were you exposed to alcohol at a young age? What did your upbringing consist of? Was alcohol readily available and did you have sources that could acquire it easily for you, making it effortless to drink when desired?

It’s not always your parents’ consumption that influences you. The alcohol abuse that goes on for your partner, best friend or spouse also sways your daily intake. You may be drinking more because you’re surrounded by a heavy drinker at home! 

The same goes for the peer group you associate with either in school, at work or during your time off. If your friends are prone to ingesting large amounts of alcohol or even binge drinking in social situations, you’re more likely to indulge too, which can lead to substance abuse issues.

Family Dynamics and Inheritance 

The family environment you were raised in also has an important impact on alcohol consumption. Did you grow up around drinkers and partygoers? Did they make it look fun? This is what we called learned behaviour. Seeing it often made it more acceptable to you; it normalized heavy alcohol use, impairing your judgment.

Also, if your parents were struggling with alcohol addiction themselves, they most likely didn’t provide the necessary and recommended parental guidance on this subject, which could have impacted your first trials and tribulations as well as the navigation of the world of illegal substances.

You see? Alcoholism isn’t only genetics although it ties into your family in many ways! You’re more at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder if your family history of alcohol is potent and people around you suffer from alcohol ingestion.

Support and Treatment With the CCFA

Remember, alcoholism is progressive; it’s not just about the risk factors and genetic predisposition for alcohol! Watch out for the warning signs and prevent it as best you can. If you need assistance with this or your alcohol problem, the Canadian Centre for Addictions provides excellent alcohol addiction treatment programs and support possibilities that are adapted to your needs and those of your family members. Discover them by clicking here or call us today at 1-855-499-9446!

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

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