Is there a genetic link to alcohol addiction?

Does alcohol addiction have a genetic link? Or simply put, is alcohol addiction hereditary? Though there is still no concrete proof to establish the link between genetic predisposition and alcohol addiction, one cannot deny the role of genetics in increasing the chances of developing alcoholism, maybe partially.

Many scientists and researchers believe that parents’ alcohol addiction may be passed on to their offspring due to genetics or environmental reasons. In fact, genes have been associated with increasing or decreasing the risk of alcohol addiction in a person. Though the matter is a bit tricky, it is definitely important.

Children of alcoholic parents run an increased risk of developing drinking problems due to behavioral and emotional problems. Nevertheless, one cannot undermine the role of genetics, especially alterations in the genetic makeup.

Establishing hereditary link not easy

Genetics may influence one’s orientation toward alcohol, but it does not necessarily mean that a person will develop drinking problems. In a bid to identify the gene related to alcoholism by studying the affected families, scientists from the Washington University and five other centers have identified one version of the gene known as GABRG3, which is involved in the movement of a brain chemical called GABA between neurons.

However, this is not sufficient to establish the genetic basis of alcoholism. The researchers still do not know whether alterations in the GABA gene increases someone’s risk of alcoholism. Moreover, it often becomes difficult to determine the relationship between genetics and alcoholism due to the interplay between genetics and environmental factors.

Another argument is that one has an increased risk alcoholism due to the inheritance of a particular type of genes that may cause a state of brain activation or excitement, which can only be stabilized by alcohol.

Environmental factors riskier than genetics

Despite having a variant of genes that protects one from developing drinking problems by metabolizing alcohol, many youngsters are prone to develop alcohol addiction due to the increased production of acetaldehyde, which is a product of alcohol metabolism.

Besides wearing off the protective effects of the gene, high levels of acetaldehyde are toxic enough to cause adverse side effects, such as headaches and vomiting. The effects are also likely to disappear due to the high-risk environmental factors.

More than genetics, it’s the age when a person starts drinking alcohol that largely determines the risk of developing alcohol addiction in the long run. Parents’ behavior and their attitude toward drinking and children influence drinking habits among children. Several researchers believe that a person’s risk increases due to the following difficulties:

  • If an alcoholic parent has depression or other psychological problems.
  • If both parents have alcohol and drug abuse habits.
  • If the parents’ alcohol abuse behaviors are severe.
  • If there are conflicts that lead to aggression and violence in the family.

Many children of parents addicted to alcohol, even from the most troubled families, do not grow up to be a person with drinking problems. In fact, many of them have successfully established milestones in their field. Therefore, a person’s family history of alcoholism by no means determines one’s chances of developing alcoholism. Though the risk may be higher, it is certainly not something that must happen.

Alcoholism can be treated

While there is still a debate whether genes are responsible for determining one’s alcoholic behavior, alcoholism is a disorder and it must be treated. Untreated alcoholism has serious personal, social and interpersonal ramifications that can be only taken care of through appropriate treatment.

If you or someone you know has the problem of alcoholism, contact the Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline to access more details about the alcohol addiction treatment in Florida. Chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-220-5381 to locate the best alcohol treatment centers in Florida.