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Alcoholism and Genetics: Is Alcoholism Hereditary?


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 5/30/2023

Alcoholism can be influenced by genetics and family history. There are Genes that influence alcoholism more than others and several of these genes have been identified. Some of these genes include ABH1B and ALDH2. These genes play a role in alcoholism because of how they influence GABA receptors in the brain, which is the area alcoholism impacts the most.

What are the Effects of Genes on Alcoholism?

Genes affect alcoholism by making people more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol. A gene is a hereditary unit that is transferred from parents to children. Genes are responsible for the traits of children and how they develop; every person has a set of unique genes. As a technical definition, genes are a sequence of nucleotides that make up parts of a chromosome. When this process occurs, it influences the order of monomers in a molecule. These monomers are present in polypeptide or nucleic acid molecules, which cells and viruses synthesize. Genetics also plays a crucial role in an individual’s DNA.

Is There a Gene for Alcoholism?

Yes, there are genes for alcoholism. While there is no single gene that influences alcoholism, it’s a combination of many genes that leads to alcohol addiction. Still, some of the most common genes that are associated with alcoholism include ADH1B and ALDH2. People who inherit these genes are more likely to develop alcoholism and these genes are tied to alcohol metabolism. Another factor that plays into alcoholism is mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. These are all mental health conditions that can be inherited.

What Studies Show That Alcoholism is Genetic?

Several studies show alcoholism is genetic. One study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that alcoholism is tied to genes and mental health disorders. The study was conducted on 275,000 people and found that there are 18 genetic variations that can lead to alcohol abuse.

Another study found similar results. A study conducted by Arizona State University in Tempe analyzed 2,800 men and women. The participants in the study varied in age from 18 to 65 and the study concluded that people who had thrill-seeking personality traits were more likely to develop alcoholism. That said, almost every study concluded that genetics are not the sole factor in alcoholism. Instead, it’s a combination of alcoholism, environmental factors, and the frequency of alcohol consumption.

What Statistics Show That Alcoholism is Genetic?

Some statistics show that alcoholism is genetic. In fact, about 50% of alcoholism cases are influenced by genetics. Statistics also show that men are more likely to become alcoholics than females. One study found that 6.2% of men worldwide die from alcohol-related illness or addiction. Surveys have also found that 4.7% of people in the United States are likely to suffer from severe alcoholism and that 3.8% of Americans are dependent on alcohol. These are a handful of the alcoholism statistics that relate to genetic alcoholism.

What is the Heritability of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a hereditary condition. It’s estimated that alcoholism is hereditary in about 45% to 65% of alcoholism cases. There are no differences between the heritability of alcoholism in men and women but it’s important to note that men are more likely to develop alcoholism based on personality traits like risk-taking.

Does Alcoholism Run in Families?

Alcoholism runs in families. In fact, genetics account for about half of all alcoholism cases. When someone comes from a family that has a history of alcoholism, hereditary genes increase the chances of a child becoming an alcoholic. These genes can come from one or both parents but don’t always lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism requires more than genetics to develop because people need to consume alcohol frequently, binge drink, and choose to drink alcohol. If someone avoids consuming alcohol the chance of alcoholism developing is low.

Will I Become an Alcoholic if My Parents Are?

If your parents are alcoholics there is a higher chance of developing alcoholism because of genes passed down from your parents. Furthermore, being in an environment with alcoholics increases the chance of becoming alcohol dependent. People become more alcohol-dependent in these situations because it’s used as a coping mechanism. Plus, being around alcohol entices people to consume it; especially if their parents are alcoholics.

What Is the Heritability of Alcohol Tolerance?

There is no heritability for alcohol tolerance. While some races are more intolerant to alcoholism, like the Asian population, genetics don’t determine how much alcohol someone can tolerate. Alcohol tolerance is based on consuming alcohol and how much alcohol is consumed. When people drink alcohol often it leads to a higher tolerance, while drinking less alcohol reduces someone’s tolerance. Alcohol tolerance can also be influenced by how much food someone has eaten before consuming alcohol.

What is the Effect of Genes on the Treatment of Alcoholism?

There aren’t many treatments for alcoholism based on genetics. That said, researchers in North and South America have come up with several treatment modalities for people with genes that influence alcoholism. For people with a family history of alcoholism, there are alcoholism treatments that create unpleasant effects as an alternative to behavioral therapy, medications, and detox. Still, therapy and medication are the preferred treatment modalities for alcoholism.