Alcoholism and Genetics: The Sobering Truth

Man drinking at the office Alcoholism and Genetics: The Sobering Truth

Alcohol is responsible for 95,000 deaths per year, making it the number three cause of preventable death in America.

There is a lot of speculation around the causes and prevention of alcohol addiction. Is alcoholism hereditary? What causes addiction problems in the first place? And how can alcoholics get the help they need?

If you have questions about excessive alcohol use, our guide gives you the facts about alcoholism and genetics.

Read on to find out more.

Is Alcoholism Genetically Inherited?

There isn’t one single gene that determines whether you’ll become an alcoholic. However, you can be genetically predisposed to alcoholism. If you inherit specific genes from one or both parents, it can increase your likelihood of suffering from addiction.

However, you can also inherit behavioral genes that increase your chances of becoming addicted to alcohol. These behavioral genes can give you the following personality traits:

  • Aggressive childhood behavior
  • Reckless acts
  • Adrenaline seeking behavior
  • Depressive tendencies
  • Borderline personality disorder.

These genes don’t have a direct link to alcohol, but they make you more likely to put yourself in drinking situations frequently. Therefore, after prolonged exposure to alcohol, you may become addicted.

How Your Environment Affects Alcoholism

Although you may have a genetic predisposition, that’s only half the picture. Your environment is one of the leading risk factors for developing alcoholism. If you have genes that put you at risk of addiction, your environment will be the catalyst.

This is why some people can often party without having addiction problems, and others fall foul to alcoholism easily. You may have a genetic predisposition if you notice the symptoms of alcoholism when you haven’t been hitting the bottle as hard as your friends.

The Truth About What Causes Alcoholism

Overall, alcoholism cannot be reduced to either genetics or the environment. The chances of you developing an addiction depend on both nature and nurture. As much as your genetics can have an impact, it won’t be triggered without environmental factors too.

If there’s a history of the genetics of alcoholism in your family, be aware that you should take it easy when indulging in alcohol. Furthermore, having a mental illness increases your risk of addiction issues by up to 50%, so be careful if you suffer from mental health issues.

People that are at risk of alcoholism should add protective factors to their lifestyles. Keep alcohol in the home to a minimum, avoid drinking alone or to excess, and have a good support network.

The Facts About Alcoholism and Genetics

So that’s the link between alcoholism and genetics explained.

There is no single factor that causes alcoholism, and both genetics and environment play a key role in addiction. However, if your family has a history of addiction issues and/or mental health problems, it could be time to take stock of your drinking habits.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, be sure to check out our other posts for everything you need to know about addiction, lifestyle, careers, and more.

*This is a collaboration post

Adobe Stock royalty-free image #107617019, ‘Man drinking at the office’ uploaded by Kaspars Grinvalds, standard license purchased from; file retrieved on December 31st, 2018. License details available at – image is licensed under the Adobe Stock Standard License

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