Is Alcoholism Genetic? Indiana Center for Recovery

Posted on December 1, 2021

Therapy and social support are critical components offered in a rehab program, and these treatments help the individual understand their addiction, avoid triggers and prevent relapse, and sustain a sober, healthy lifestyle. A study from 2008 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) examined research on AUD and a possible genetic association. The study found that genetic factors accounted for 40-60% of the variance among those who suffer from an AUD. Since that time, certain genes that contribute to AUD have been discovered, and they correlate with the reward center of the brain and how it develops.

difficulties of genetic studies are compounded by environmental heterogeneity in
access to alcohol and social norms related to drinking. In 2006, National Institute on Drugs Abuse researched human genes to find out the reasons behind alcohol addiction. The genome study brought to light that inclination and vulnerability towards drugs and other substance abuse are influenced by strong genetic factors. Many of the existing genetic experiments examining substance abuse and addiction involve mice, which are bred to be good analogues of human genetics. However, there are few long-term studies that have conclusively linked specific genetic traits to humans who struggle with AUD.

Environmental Factors that Contribute to Alcoholism

What this means for family members of alcoholics is that you are not necessarily going to abuse alcohol yourself. Family, twin, and adoption studies have shown that alcoholism definitely has a genetic component. In 1990, Blum et al. proposed an association between the A1 allele of the DRD2 gene and alcoholism. The DRD2 gene was the first candidate gene that showed promise of an association with alcoholism.

Is addiction passed down?

More than half of the differences in how likely people are to develop substance use problems stem from DNA differences, though it varies a little bit by substance. Research suggests alcohol addiction is about 50 percent heritable, while addiction to other drugs is as much as 70 percent heritable.

It may be that dysregulation in these areas makes a person vulnerable to alcohol or other drug abuse. That fact that the dysregulation or problems can be encoded in the genes means that parents can pass these genes on to their children who in turn pass them on to their children, and so on. While in the depths of one’s mind, it might be easy to feel isolated and solitary.

What Causes Alcohol Use Disorder?

Over the past two decades, several genes
underlying susceptibility have been identified. Extensive study of the alcohol
metabolizing genes has demonstrated their important role in disease risk. Additional
genes have been identified that have Top 5 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Sober House for Living expanded our understanding of the genes and
pathways involved; however, the number of findings to date is modest. First and perhaps foremost, most studies of
alcohol-related phenotypes have been small – hundreds or a few thousand

  • A family history of alcoholism does put you at higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll become addicted to alcohol or that you can’t break the cycle of addiction.
  • As whole exome and whole genome sequencing
    technologies come down in cost, they are being applied to identifying rare
  • Family studies have consistently demonstrated that there is a substantial
    genetic contribution to alcohol dependence.
  • NIAAA has funded the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) since 1989, with the goal of identifying the specific genes that influence alcohol use disorder.

Common hereditary mental illnesses include autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. Now that you have a better understanding of the question “is alcoholism genetic? ” you may be wondering how you can get help for a genetic issue like this, but it is always possible to end the addiction. As is the case with any form of addiction treatment, detoxing (with the help of medical supervision) through a rehabilitation program is the best first step. How do the roles of genetics impact the development of alcoholism throughout one’s life? What are some essential steps that can help prevent alcoholism later in life?

Need help getting addiction treatment?

However, NIH research to identify co-occurring substance use disorder declares a 50 percent role of genes in alcohol dependency. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, affecting the reward and motivation centers, and it is also a genetic problem. Indeed, scientists have argued about the genetic and hereditary influences on addiction for decades. To truly understand the influence of genetics and heredity, we must understand the difference between the two. For many, alcoholism begins as a method or technique of regulating stress in life. However, alcohol can turn into an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress or poor mental health, one that can lead to the development of risky conditions such as addiction.

  • There have been several discoveries of these genes, including two alcohol metabolism genes, ADH1B and ALDH2, which have the strongest known influence on alcoholism risk.
  • However, scientists also argue that genetics play a significant role in the risk of developing alcoholism and the likelihood of hereditary effects.
  • A history of abuse – children who grew up in stressful environments, particularly those who were physically, verbally, or sexually abused are at a heightened risk of suffering from an AUD in adulthood.
  • It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.


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