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Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Alcoholism can quickly turn a person’s life upside down. If you or a loved one have struggled with alcohol use disorder (AUD) then you may have asked yourself: is alcoholism hereditary? It is understandable to have these concerns, as knowing this fact could help you to better prepare to fight against AUD. You may also be concerned if you already struggle with alcohol misuse that your children could also develop this problem later in life. While there can be an increased risk of alcoholism, hereditary alone is not the only factor you need to be concerned with.

What is Alcoholism? 

In order to answer the question, is alcohol hereditary?, one must first know what alcoholism is.

Alcoholism is characterized by a continued misuse of drinking behaviors that can be compulsive and uncontrollable. It is considered a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment to maintain sobriety and manage one’s AUD.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

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

  • A strong use 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.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, alcoholism is a complex genetic disease. While alcoholism has been known to run in the family, and there are increased risks of alcoholism, it is not the only factor contributing to the risk of developing AUD. Furthermore, no gene directly correlates to alcoholism. 

As such, hereditary alone does not make an alcoholic. 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 potentially lead to regular drinking, which can lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.

Binge drinking is another environmental factor that can influence the risk of alcoholism. When binge drinking is accepted as 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 someone in the home misuses alcohol, and other family members enable their drinking. 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 as a means to alleviate the symptoms of their mental health disorder. In other cases, people develop AUD first and then develop a mental health disorder. 

What are dual diagnosis/co-occurring disorders?

Dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders are where two or more disorders occur simultaneously. 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 very common. 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

As you can see, several other factors can influence whether one develops AUD aside from hereditary. Fortunately, AUD can be prevented when you take the following precautions:

  • Recognize when your current drinking habits and patterns are high risk.
  • Be aware of your family history of AUD.
  • Recognize unhealthy coping methods like drinking when dealing with stress, anxiety, or a mental health disorder.
  • Educate yourself about the common symptoms of alcohol misuse and what you should do if they become apparent. 
  • Educate yourself about the risks of developing AUD if you have a mental health disorder. 
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help if you feel like things are spiraling out of control.

Find Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder in Nashville

We understand taking preventive steps to reduce the risk of developing AUD seems easy in theory. However, we also understand that these steps may not become apparent to someone until after they develop AUD. Therefore, if your alcohol misuse is causing problems in your life, we are here to help.

At Detox Nashville, we offer medically supervised detox, alcohol addiction treatment, and dual diagnosis treatment programs. Getting help for AUD is the first step to recovery. Then, 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. 
To speak with one of our intake specialists to learn more about our treatment programs or to start the intake process, please feel free to contact us to speak with an intake specialist today.

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