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Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

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One question people often ask when a loved one suffers from alcohol use disorder (AUD) is, “Is alcoholism hereditary?” After all, it is understandable that they might worry that they or another family member could also develop AUD. However, many other factors can cause alcohol use disorder.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a medical condition where a person continues to consume alcohol regardless of its effects on them physically, mentally, and socially. The person has a strong desire and urges to drink and often cannot control themselves once they start drinking. 

Previously a person with alcoholism was called an alcoholic. However, these terms are negative and make it seem like the person suffering from this condition deliberately chooses to drink and become addicted to alcohol. As such, the terminology currently used for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder (AUD), and instead of alcoholic, we say a person has been diagnosed with AUD.  

What Causes Alcoholism?

There are several underlying causes for AUD. These include environmental, social, and genetic factors. For example, an individual’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol increases the more often they drink, how much they drink, and how fast they drink and include the following behaviors:

  • Excessive and heavy alcohol use, including binge drinking. While binge drinkers may not develop AUD, the more often they binge drink, the more likely they will. Excessive and heavy drinking several times of week also increases the risk of getting AUD.
  • Frequently drinking socially. Some people have a few drinks after work with their coworkers daily. Over time, two drinks can turn into four and four into eight as their bodies develop tolerance to alcohol. Eventually, they can develop AUD. 
  • Drinking to self-medicate medical, mental, and emotional issues. Some people decide to have a few drinks to alleviate stress and pain or feel better when they are sad and depressed. However, continued self-medicating using alcohol can lead to AUD as the body builds up a tolerance, and one has to drink more to achieve the desired effects.
  • Drinking before the age of 15. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), a survey of adults ages 26 and older found that those who drank before they were 15 were more than five times more likely to have an AUD in the previous year compared to those participants who waited until they were 21 or older to start drinking.  
  • Being exposed to drinking at an early age. For example, individuals who grew up in households with parents who frequently drink or have AUD are at risk of AUD. However, it also depends on the individual’s view of drinking. For instance, they are less likely to develop AUD if they associate negative consequences with drinking. Conversely, if their parents encourage drinking and they view it as a positive memory, then they are more likely to develop AUD.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Genetics and hereditary are other factors that play a role in determining whether one will develop AUD. When a parent or grandparent has AUD or drinks excessively often, they can pass certain traits along to their offspring. This often results in some children or grandchildren having a higher tolerance to alcohol. 

As a result, they are able to consume larger amounts without feeling the effects that others might feel. Therefore, since these people already have an inherited tolerance, they have a higher risk of developing AUD unless they make responsible choices regarding alcohol. 

The University of Washington and the University of Queensland conducted one of the largest studies on hereditary alcoholism using twins, as reported in Psychology Today. The results of the study concluded there was a 50 percent predisposition for AUD in males and a 30 percent predisposition for AUD in females when they are twins. In addition, heredity contributes about 50 percent of the risks of developing AUD due to genetic factors.

Ultimately, there is a 50-50 chance of developing AUD when genetic factors are involved. The other 50 percent of risk factors come from environmental and social factors. 

How Is Alcoholism Treated? 

AUD is treated using various methods that are often tailored to each individual’s specific needs. There is no quick fix or solution to AUD as it requires ongoing treatment like other diseases. However, it is possible to lead a productive life free of alcohol when one is committed to sobriety. Some of the more common methods used to treat AUD include:

  • Medically Supervised Detox
  • Medication Therapies
  • Residential Treatment Programs
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Peer Support Groups
  • Sponsorships 

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment in Orange County, CA

Whether you want help for an alcohol use disorder, or have concerns because a family member is struggling, Pacific Sands Recovery Center can help. Our JCAHO-accredited treatment center provides a safe and supportive environment for recovery. Start your AUD treatment today by contacting us.

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