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Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Alcoholism can quickly turn a person’s world upside down while disrupting the family dynamic and relationships with family and friends. When someone struggles with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or their loved ones battle it, a common question asked, “Is alcoholism hereditary?” The question is legitimate, and the answers may better prepare a person to fight against AUD or help loved ones who may be at risk.

For example, when a parent struggles with alcoholism, could their children develop AUD later in life? While there can be an increased risk of alcoholism, hereditary alone is not the only factor to consider. 

Understanding the risk of alcoholism and whether or not it’s hereditary is important; however, one must first understand what alcoholism is.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the continued misuse of drinking behaviors that become compulsive and uncontrollable. It is considered a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment to maintain sobriety.

There are many signs of alcoholism. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms from alcohol misuse, there are a few key signs to look out for:

While not everyone will experience the same symptoms from alcohol, there are a few key things to look for. Symptoms of alcoholism may include:

  • A strong urge to drink alcohol
  • Looking forward to drinking
  • Binge drinking to experience the effects of alcohol faster
  • Inability to control or limit one’s drinking
  • Continuing to misuse alcohol even when it is negatively impacting one’s life
  • Denying one has a drinking problem
  • Attempting to hide one’s drinking from family and friends
  • Believing one cannot function unless they are under the influence of alcohol
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • No longer finding pleasure in activities and hobbies
  • Drinking to avoid hangovers and other withdrawal symptoms

Does Alcoholism Have Hereditary Causes?

According to Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, alcoholism is a complex genetic disease. While alcoholism is known to run in the family, there are increased risks of alcoholism. However, it is not the only factor contributing to the risk of developing AUD. Furthermore, no exact gene directly correlates to alcoholism. 

So, heredity alone does not cause alcoholism. Instead, it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In addition, the individual’s mental health can also influence whether they develop AUD.

Environmental Factors and Alcohol Use

Environmental factors can play a role in alcohol use. For example, when one grows up around alcohol, where it is readily available, there can be a higher risk of experimentation at an earlier age. Furthermore, it could lead to regular drinking, alcohol dependence, and addiction.

Binge drinking is another environmental factor that can influence the risk of alcoholism. When binge drinking is a social norm, it can make it seem like this is normal drinking behavior. 

Another behavior related to environmental factors and alcohol use is when family members enable someone with AUD. Enabling behaviors are tolerating one’s drinking, drinking with them, supporting their drinking habit, and downplaying the seriousness of their drinking problem.

Alcoholism and Mental Health Disorders

There is a strong correlation between alcoholism and certain mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Some people drink to help alleviate the symptoms of their mental health disorder. In other cases, people develop AUD first and later develop a mental health disorder. This results in a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

What Are Dual Diagnosis/Co-Occurring Disorders?

Dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders are where two or more conditions coincide. The terms are used interchangeably and mean the same thing. For example, someone could have a depressive disorder and AUD.

In fact, dual diagnosis alcohol and substance use disorders and mental health disorders are prevalent. According to SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.

Hereditary and AUD Risk

Several other factors can influence whether one develops alcoholism aside from hereditary causes. Fortunately, AUD is preventable. Here are some precautions to consider: 

  • Recognize current drinking habits and high-risk factors for addiction
  • Be aware of the family history of AUD
  • Recognize unhealthy coping methods like drinking when dealing with stress, anxiety, or a mental health disorder
  • Educate oneself about the common symptoms of alcohol misuse and what you should do if they become apparent
  • Educate oneself about the risks of developing AUD if you have a mental health disorder
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help when things spiral out of control

Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder in Nashville

Whether your alcoholism is hereditary or brought on by environmental factors, we understand that taking that first step to recovery is not always easy. Detox Nashville is here to help. When you are ready to make a positive change for yourself and overcome your alcoholism, we can help create a personalized treatment plan at our luxury treatment center. We offer medically supervised detox, alcohol addiction treatment, and dual-diagnosis treatment programs to lead you to health and wellness.

To speak with one of our intake specialists to learn more about our treatment programs or to start the intake process, contact us to speak with an intake specialist today.

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