Is Alcoholism Hereditary? A Review and Critique JAMA Psychiatry

Frequent exposure to alcohol and other substances can increase the risk of addiction. In particular, early exposure can heighten the risk of gaining a physical dependency on alcohol, especially in a familial setting. However, scientists also argue that genetics play a significant role in the risk of developing alcoholism and the likelihood of hereditary effects. When it comes down to it, the environmental elements of growing up with an alcoholic parent are just as impactful, if not more, than genetic predisposition. No, the factors of environment and genes are responsible for a person’s alcohol use as the genetic variants and environment make a person inclined towards alcohol. However, the increased risk due to genetics is half of a person’s risk of getting into alcoholism.

is alcoholism hereditary

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare. The sensitive mice tend to lose their inhibitions and pass out rather quickly, earning them the nickname “long sleepers.” “Short sleepers” are mice that are genetically less sensitive to alcohol. They seem to lose fewer inhibitions and tolerate alcohol for longer before they pass out.

Environmental Factors of Hereditary Alcoholism

Among those abusing alcohol, people who are genetically predisposed to alcoholism have a higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Although people can inherit alcoholic tendencies, the development of an alcohol use disorder is also dependent on social and environmental factors. Some who have inherited genes making them susceptible to alcoholism are responsible drinkers or never take a drink in their life. Alcohol use disorder, the medical term for alcoholism and alcohol abuse, has been linked to some specific genes. Having a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who struggles with alcohol use disorder increases the chances that a person will also struggle with the same addiction.

is alcoholism hereditary

Children who have one parent who struggles with alcohol use disorder have 3-4 times increased risk of becoming an alcoholic themselves. Having more extended relatives, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other family members, who struggle with alcohol abuse, however, does not have the same strong association. Alcoholism is a serious problem and one estimate suggests that as many as 18 million adults in the country struggle with alcohol use disorder; that is one in 12 individuals.

Alcoholism in Numbers

The Strategic Prevention Framework by SAMHSA has made it easier to control a person’s risk and tendency towards alcohol. If you have alcoholic parents, there’s some cause for caution, but you can adopt protections for safety. Around 20,000 different genes are thought to be present in each human. The exact genes aren’t known as there are many genes responsible for a person getting attracted to alcohol dependence.

  • It is important to understand your risk factors for developing an addiction, such as a family history of alcoholism and environmental influences.
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  • Consistently ranked a top medical school for research, Washington University School of Medicine is also a catalyst in the St. Louis biotech and startup scene.
  • This can cause fever, seizures, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), agitation, and severe confusion.
  • Alcohol misuse has become a serious problem throughout the United States.

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