Is Alcoholism Genetic?

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What do we get from our parents? Eye color, height, and sense of humor are some examples, but is alcoholism something that can be passed down from parent to child? Are children of alcoholics genetically predisposed to develop this addiction? These are frequent questions asked by scientists, and the overall answer seems to be complicated.
(I thought this picture was funny because the first guys looks as if he's dancing or giving the smiley face a high-five...who knows?)

According to the website Web4Health, "Children of alcohol-dependent parents run a higher risk of developing an alcohol problem than other children". The catch is, it's not only genetics that cause children of alcoholics to become addicted to alcohol themselves. There are many factors involved that include environment and habits that the child grew up with. The genetic passing of personality traits is something that can determine if the child will become an alcoholic. Anti-social people, people who are more prone to anxiety, and thrill-seekers run a higher risk of developing this disease. So, it's not exactly the genes that cause alcoholism, but the personality we inherit from our parents.

Medical News Today highlights another genetic factor that predisposes some to alcoholism. The lack of the chemical endorphin in the brain is hereditary. For those who don't know, endorphins are the feel-good chemicals that are released during "exercise, excitement, love, and orgasms" according to BBC News. Those who lack this chemical in their brains need some other way to feel good, so they might turn to alcohol because of this.

The next cause may be the environment that the child grows up in. Growing up with an alcoholic parent can be a very stressful way to live, causing the child much pain and suffering. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry outlines a few consequences of having an alcoholic parent, such as "delinquent behavior", "abuse of drugs or alcohol", and "risk taking behaviors". Sound familiar?

Lastly, being exposed to alcohol at a young age, even if it isn't in a negative way, shapes ones behaviors. When a child has accepted the consumption of alcohol as a normal part of life, they are more likely to over do it.

As one can see, it's not that alcoholism is embedded in our DNA, but the way we grow up that makes us more or less susceptible to become addicted to alcohol.

1 Comment

I don't think that alcoholism is genetic but I do truly believe an addictive personality is. I know plenty of friends that have had alcoholic parents and they avoided alcohol at all costs but instead turned to drugs and ended down the wrong path. I believe that alcoholism along with drug addictions and OCD's are all caused by an addictive personality that can't find balance in one's life. Here's a site that talks about how it could be genetic but it's more of an issue of nurture than nature.

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