Alcohol addiction is sometimes referred to as a family disease. Is alcoholism hereditary, or are there other reasons why multiple people in one family often struggle with this condition?
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
When attempting to discern why some people develop substance use disorders (addictions) or mental illnesses, it’s virtually impossible to identify one single, defining cause.
In most cases – including when trying to answer the question, “Is alcoholism hereditary?” a variety of factors can combine to raise or lower a person’s risk.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), genetic factors are responsible for about 50% of a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for alcoholism.
This doesn’t mean that there is a single gene that predisposes a person to alcoholism. As advances in technology allow researchers to gain greater insights into the human genome, it is becoming more apparent that several genes or genetic variations may be involved.
Also, it is important to remember that accounting for half of a person’s risk means that genes alone are unlikely to be the sole reason why someone develops a drinking problem.
We typically think of environmental factors as separate from hereditary influences. But in the case of family influences on a person’s risk of alcoholism, we shouldn’t focus solely on genetics. A person’s relationship with their parents and the stability of the household they grew up in are environmental factors that are closely tied to heredity.
For example, someone who was abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated by their parents may be more likely to struggle with compulsive alcohol abuse than someone who was raised in a loving and supportive home. Also, the loss of a parent due to death, divorce, or separation can be a risk factor for alcoholism, as can living with a parent or other close family member who has a mental health disorder.
Other Risk Factors for Alcoholism
Outside of one’s home and family, a host of other factors can also influence a person’s risk for developing alcoholism. Examples of these factors can include:
- A history of untreated trauma (separate from the family-related traumatic experiences that we noted in the previous section)
- Significant life changes during adulthood, such as job loss, divorce, and financial difficulties
- Prolonged exposure to overwhelming stress
- Poor stress-management capabilities
- Associating with individuals who regularly abuse alcohol
- Personal struggles with anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or certain other mental health concerns
Signs You May Be Addicted to Alcohol
If multiple people in your family appear to have difficulty controlling the amount and frequency of their alcohol use, it’s understandable to wonder, is alcoholism hereditary?
If you are concerned that you may have developed this disorder, you should consult with your family doctor or schedule an assessment with a reputable treatment provider. The only way to be certain that you have alcoholism is to be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional.
To help you decide if you should schedule an assessment, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you frequently experience powerful cravings for alcohol?
- Do you spend significant amounts of time using and recovering from the use of alcohol?
- Has your alcohol use caused you to miss work or school, or otherwise fail to meet important responsibilities?
- Has your drinking become a source of conflict with friends, family members, or romantic partners?
- When you’re in a situation where you can’t drink, do you become agitated or irritated?
- Have you continued to drink even after incurring harm (such as physical health problems, legal issues, lost relationships, or setbacks at work) as a result of your alcohol use?
- Have you ended or curtailed your participation in sports, hobbies, or other enjoyable activities as a result of your alcohol use?
- Do you need to consume larger amounts of alcohol in order to experience the effects that you used to achieve with just a few drinks?
- Have you ever tried to stop drinking, but found that you were unable to do so?
- Has anyone ever suggested to you that you might have a drinking problem?
Please note that these questions are for informational purposes only, and they are by no means intended to be a replacement for a professional evaluation. However, if you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, this could be a sign that you have become addicted to alcohol, and you should seriously consider scheduling an assessment.
Learn More About Alcoholism Treatment in Massachusetts
Lake Avenue Recovery offers personalized outpatient rehab for adults whose lives have been disrupted by alcoholism and certain co-occurring mental health conditions.
When you choose to receive care at our alcoholism treatment center in Worcester, Massachusetts, you’ll have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with a team of skilled and experienced professionals. While you’re in treatment, you can also discover the power of sharing support with others who have had similar challenges and who are working toward a common goal.
At Lake Avenue Recovery, we understand how compulsive alcohol abuse can impact virtually every part of your life, and we’re committed to providing the focused solutions that will help you achieve true healing in mind, body, and spirit.
To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.