Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, is the condition in which a person cannot control his desire for alcohol consumption, even when it negatively impacts their lives. The addiction arises from drinking so much to the extent of your body becoming dependent on alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can be caused by a combination of social, environmental, physiological, hereditary and genetic factors.
Alcohol abuse in the United States has become a significant problem, with about 18 million adults struggling in the country with the disorder. It is estimated that about 100,000 people die every year from alcohol abuse and related conditions such as cirrhosis and other organ damage. Chronic alcohol abuse also leads to several cancers, diabetes, and kidney disease
Is my alcoholism genetic or hereditary?
Some genes have been linked to an alcohol use disorder. Your chances of becoming an alcoholic are high if you have a close relative, such as a parent or a sibling who struggles with alcohol disorder, therefore the desire of separation from them could become a passing thought. Heredity and genetics are closely related since a parent can pass down their genes to the children, and so they inherit the traits. From the medical point of view, having a genetic condition translates to an abnormality in your genome. In contrast, hereditary condition means that an individual has received some genetic mutations from their parents’ genome. This leaves you with the question: Is alcoholism hereditary or a genetic condition? Looking separately at each predicament will help you garner understanding regarding genetic and hereditary alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol Use Disorder and Genetics
Genetics contributes to 50 percent of alcohol abuse cases. A research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in 2008 revealed that an individual’s genetics contribute to 40 to 60 percent of the variance among people who struggle with alcohol abuse. Moreover, there are specific genes that contribute to alcohol disorder and are linked to the growth of the brain reward centers.
However, expressing genes phenotypically is very complex. For instance, a person may have one short parent, while the other is tall. As such, they carry both shortness and tallness genes, but they can either be tall or short. Strong genes are responsible for gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) movement in synapses between neurons and have been associated with a higher risk of alcohol use disorder. Up to date, it is still not clear how genetic sequence may contribute to the disorder. The following are some of the ways in which genes that control alcohol use disorder may be expressed:
- Various warning signs: Individuals who may be having a genetic predisposition to alcohol use disorder experience various warning signs from their own body or brain when they need to cease consumption of alcohol.
- Abnormal serotonin levels: Serotonin is closely associated with depression and is the most vital mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Abnormal levels of serotonin have been linked to individuals who are genetically predisposed to an alcohol use disorder.
- Smaller amygdale: Some studies show that people who originate from families with a history of alcohol use disorder have an abnormally small amygdala. Amygdala is the part of the brain involved with the experiencing of emotions interrelated with carvings.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Heredity implies the passing of genes from the parents to the offspring. A series of genetical codes in the DNA is passed from parents to our bodies during conception. Genes can be both mental and physical, and this allows the disorders that affect the mind and the body to be passed. Alcohol disorder genes are passed in the same way to the offspring. Children from alcoholic parents have up to fourfold increased chances of struggling with alcohol use disorder later in life.
Statics show that the relationship between a family history of alcohol abuse and a high risk of genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse depends on how close the individuals are related. For instance, children with one of the parents struggling with alcohol disorder have four times increased risk of abusing alcohol. This association is not as strong as having more relatives, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts struggling with this disorder.
Environmental influences usually have a significant impact on whether or not an individual will develop alcohol abuse problems. Some of the factors are:
- Early Drinking Age: Individuals who start taking alcohol in their adolescence are prone to develop alcohol use disorder. People who avoid taking alcohol until they are old enough are unlikely to struggle with alcohol use disorder.
- Family Life: Children who grow up in an environment with alcohol abuse are more likely to become alcoholic someday. Being in a family with alcoholic parents and relatives increases the chances of a child becoming an alcoholic than they would without alcohol abuse in their immediate environment.
- History of Abuse: Other forms of abuse such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse experienced during childhood can have some adverse effects to the victims, with or without alcohol influence. According to studies, women with alcohol disorder are likely to have been neglected or mistreated during their formative age compared to those who are not alcoholic.
- Peer Pressure and Social Life: The newfound freedom mostly experienced by college students often come with pressure to take alcohol at parties and eventually become binge drinking habit, which is why the use of sober bars are encouraged. Excess drinking has been observed in some individuals who have experienced big transitions in life, such as getting a new job or moving to a new city. Maintaining a circle of friends with unhealthy behavior can also be risky. The level of education also shows a strong trend in drinking habit. In the United States, 80 percent of college graduate use alcohol, while only 52 percent of non-college graduates use it.
- Mental Health Problems: People suffering some of the psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are more at risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Causes of Alcoholism
Having read some of the factors contributing to alcohol use disorder, it would be correct to deduce that there is no exact cause of alcohol use disorder. These are simply the various influences that affect the likelihood of an individual to experience alcohol disorder in their lifetime. The main aspects contributing to alcohol abuse are environmental factors, hereditary genes, and genetic predisposition. Half of the alcohol abuse cases are blamed on genetics; however, people with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism disorder can effortlessly avoid the addiction by maintaining a healthy and happy life.