Like any other substance disorder, alcoholism is a complex issue. It is difficult to define, hard to treat, and even harder to prevent. However, understanding the nuances of the disease can help you make successful decisions toward avoiding and remedying this issue for yourself or a loved one. Research suggests that alcoholism is in fact a hereditary condition; however, there are things you can do to avoid becoming a statistic.
What Is Alcoholism?
Mayo Clinic defines alcoholism as a chronic and progressive disease involving preoccupation with alcohol, difficulty controlling drinking habits, inability to stop using alcohol though it clearly causes severe problems, the need for more alcohol to get the same effect, or withdrawal symptoms on rapidly decreasing alcohol intake. If you are affected by the disease, you are typically unable to predict how much you’ll drink, how long you’ll drink, or how you will behave while drinking.
Binge drinking is another form of alcoholism that involves a pattern of drinking in which a male consumes five or more drinks in a row, or a female drinks at least four drinks in a row. This type of drinking carries many of the same risks as alcoholism and can lead to additional risks.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Predicting which individuals will experience an issue with alcohol dependency isn’t easy; however, research does offer some insight on the issue. According to a study posted by the Chicago Tribune, alcoholism does run in families and actually is a genetic trait that has been recognizable for centuries. The research indicates that children of alcoholics are actually four times more likely than other children to develop an alcohol problem.
A study posted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism actually takes the findings a step further. According to this study, genetics are responsible for about half of an individual’s risk for alcoholism. It also states that multiple genes play a role in an individual’s likelihood to develop the disorder – being that some genes increase the risk and others decrease the risk.
Do Any Other Factors Contribute to Alcohol Use Disorders?
A study shared by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) states that family history is the single most reliable indicator for an individual’s risk of developing an alcohol or drug problem. However, the research indicates that the issue is genetically complex, meaning that it takes more than one gene to create an individual’s predisposition toward an addiction.
Additionally, Mayo Clinic lists a number of additional risk factors that contribute to the issue. According to this source, other risk factors include a steady habit of drinking, first drink at an early age, depression and other mental health issues, social and cultural factors, and mixing medication and alcohol.
What Can You Do If You Have an Alcohol Use Problem?
No matter the underlying cause of the disease, you can do something to change it and even prevent it. According to research, individuals with a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism need to take a number of preventive measures. The leading preventive measure is awareness. If you are aware of a family member with a drinking issue, you are at risk of developing that same issue and need to monitor and modify your behavior accordingly. Likewise, you should confide in a trusted friend who can help you make decisions regarding your alcohol habits. You should also reach out to an alcohol support group and even consider a recovery program.
Genetics and family history affect your predisposition toward alcoholism and alcohol dependence, but you can change that. Make a decision today to be more than your predispositions.