The Truth About Alcohol Addiction and Genetics

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Alcohol Addiction and Genetics: How Your Genes Affect Alcoholism

Genetics play a major role in all of our lives. They determine many facets of our physical appearance and can even dictate behavioral characteristics. Individual genetics can explain why one person can get away with drinking alcohol from time to time and another person becomes addicted after following the same initial drinking patterns. The connection between alcohol addiction and genetics will be discussed in this article to better understand what role your genetics play in alcohol use disorder.

The Role of Genetics in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

It’s common to find several alcoholics in a single family tree. In fact, based on scientific findings, your genes account for around half of your risk of developing AUD. However, it’s important to understand that just because you have a parent that is an alcoholic, it doesn’t mean that you are destined to become one too, but rather that you have a higher risk of developing it.

For example, if two people were to consume alcohol casually and one was genetically predisposed to AUD, then it is likely that their casual use will turn into an addiction whereas the other person’s use won’t; however, the predisposed person could not develop AUD and the person who doesn’t have a genetic predisposition to AUD might develop it instead. In fact, research suggests that certain factors can influence the way that the genes that predispose a person to AUD are expressed.

Since genetics only account for around half of a person’s risk factor, other risk factors such as environmental or the age of use often factor in before an AUD forms.

AUD Genes

Alcohol addiction and genetics are not linked by a single gene, but rather by several that influence the likelihood of an addiction forming. For scientists, it’s difficult to point to individual genes that cause AUD, but certain combinations of them seem to have a strong link to the risk of forming AUD.

Furthermore, since there is a link between mental disorders such as bi-polar, depression and ADHD and the likelihood of having an addiction, if a person has a hereditary mental disorder, then that can further add to their AUD risk. This is because when these mental disorders are not treated, they can cause an individual to seek relief from their symptoms through the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

What are Environmental Risk Factors?

What else is there besides the link between alcohol addiction and genetics? Of course, people who don’t have alcoholism running in the family can also develop AUD. Researchers found that apart from alcohol addiction and genetics, environmental factors play a major role in a person’s addiction risk.

Environmental factors are the elements in a particular person’s life that alter their experience. They include the following:

  • Trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse
  • Peer pressure, which initially exposes a person to alcohol
  • Little or no parental involvement during adolescent development
  • Having easy access to alcohol such as around the home or at social events

Genes and the Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Since there are many unknowns when it comes to how genes can alter the effectiveness of the medications used in the treatment for alcohol addiction, such as naltrexone, treatment is made to be adaptive. In this way, if a medication or therapeutic method proves to have minimal effectiveness, then it can be changed to something else. Continual monitoring throughout treatment ensures that each person is getting the most out of their addiction treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.

Sources:

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders/genetics-alcohol-use-disorders

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders