Sometimes, it can seem like alcoholism runs in the family. The children of alcoholics can feel paranoid that they are more likely to become alcoholics themselves.
Is alcoholism hereditary? Alcoholism genetics might seem like a farfetched idea. But research has proven that there’s a link between your genes and your potential for alcohol abuse.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary: Alcoholism Genetics
Understanding the impact that genetics has on alcoholism can help prevent the disease from taking hold in the first place. It may also help you understand the current addiction better.
When you understand why you’re addicted, you can take steps to seek help. Choosing the most effective treatment option starts with understanding the illness.
Let’s examine how genes (the DNA provided by both of your parents) might influence whether you become addicted to alcohol. Anyone can become an alcoholic, but some may be more predisposed than others.
The Genetic Aspects of Alcoholism
DNA influences every square inch of your body, right down to the last particle. Your parent’s genetics came together to create you in the womb. Those same genes influence your existence every day that you’re alive.
Our genes contain all the instructions necessary to make proteins, the building blocks of life. Without them, our cells would fail to reproduce or heal. But, not all genes are exactly alike.
Every person has about 20,000 and 25,000 individual genes that make up their unique and specific genome. Some of these genes control things like eye color, height, and hair color. Others control your metabolism, development, and healing.
Some genes control the way our bodies metabolize alcohol. In particular, these genes are some of the most vital to study for geneticists hoping to answer the question of alcoholism and genetics.
ADH and ALDH Genes
Understanding the exact mechanisms between genes and alcohol metabolism can be challenging. Still, it may be easier to understand by breaking each idea down into simpler components.
Your metabolism, for example, is what converts the food and drink you consume into usable energy. A “slow” metabolism means that food is sitting in the gut for a long time before turning into energy.
Those with a high metabolism may convert food into energy more quickly and easily. Lifestyle habits can influence a person’s metabolism (eating healthy foods, exercising regularly). Yet genetics play a large role.
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, your body produces two specific enzymes to assist in metabolizing it. These enzymes are called:
- Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), and
- Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)
Depending on your genetics, you may produce more of certain enzymes. When this happens, your body metabolizes alcohol very quickly. This may reduce your risk of abusing alcohol.
Or, your genetics might influence a low amount of metabolizing enzymes. This might make the effects of alcohol more potent. When you’re more able to feel intoxicated after drinking, you may begin to rely on that feeling for pleasure.
Consequently, many alcoholics may have genetic mutations that enable them to “feel drunker” after abusing alcohol. When they have children, especially with other alcoholics, they pass down this predisposition.
In this way, genetics are partially responsible for the relatively high common act of alcohol abuse. However, a person’s genome isn’t the only thing that can influence them to binge drink or become an alcoholic. Environmental factors also play a role.
Environmental Influencers and Impact
Individuals with a genetic predisposition toward alcohol abuse aren’t necessarily doomed to become alcoholics. If such individuals are raised in households and communities where alcohol usage is heavily moderated, they may never abuse it.
However, children that grow up in the home of an alcoholic are substantially more likely to begin drinking heavily from a younger age. Such children are also likely to develop the same mental disorders as their parents. This is part of the cycle of abuse.
Children of alcoholics may encounter a wide range of situations that other children aren’t forced to face. These experiences tend to influence a child’s developing personality and sense of self.
As such, children of alcoholics tend to share similar characteristics and perspectives. Some of the most common attributes shared among the children of alcoholics include:
- Low Self-Esteem
- Attention-Seeking Behavior
- Fearful of Others
- Unable to Accept Criticism
- Fear Abandonment
- Fail to Form Trustworthy Relationships
In many cases, the child of an alcoholic will have survived some mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse before reaching adulthood. This type of trauma is something that doesn’t go away with time but requires therapy and counseling.
It is perfectly normal for the child of an alcoholic to feel inadequate, unloved, and paranoid of others. After all, their childhood has shown them that the people in their life will only abuse them, forget about them, and break their trust.
Additionally, adult children of alcoholics may become alcoholics themselves in an attempt to understand their parental figures. While this cycle is destructive, there are several ways to put an end to it. Rehabilitation and counseling are essential steps.
Asking for Help Is the First Step
Is alcoholism hereditary? Alcoholism genetics, or the study of the human genome and its effects on alcohol abuse, may explain why alcoholism occasionally seems to run in families. Naturally, environmental factors also play a role in the disease.
Consequently, alcoholism is both hereditary and genetic. Your specific set of genes may make you more prone to developing an unhealthy taste for alcoholic beverages. But your upbringing and environment can also influence your alcohol intake habits.
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with alcohol problems, contact us right away for professional support and assistance to get you onto a healthier path.