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Is Alcoholism Genetic, And Other Questions You Need To Know

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1 in 5  adult Americans has lived with an alcoholic relative. Generally speaking, these children have a higher risk of having emotional problems than those children whose parents are non-alcoholics. Sad to say, alcoholism runs in families, and children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than other children. Most children of alcoholics are more likely to have experienced some form of abuse or neglect in their homes.

With the interaction of genetics and the environment, a person cannot be born with an alcohol use disorder. Though people can have genes that can develop into an alcohol use disorder, genetics only accounts for relatively half of a person’s overall risk. The rest of these inclinations come from the social and environmental factors that a person encounters throughout their childhood and their life.

Is Alcoholism genetic
Source: Restore Health + Wellness Center

What Causes Alcoholism

Alcoholism is also known as alcohol use disorder and alcohol addiction. It is a condition where a person has difficulty controlling alcohol use. An individual with alcoholism may persist in drinking even though it negatively affects different areas of their life, like their health and relationships.

After decades of research, experts believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors causes alcoholism. However, the relationship between genetics, risk of alcoholism, and environment is complex. Genes alone don’t necessarily cause alcoholism. Rather, environmental factors and genetics work together to affect a person’s risk. Epigenetics refers to how one’s behaviors and environment affect how genes function. 

Tests for Alcoholism

There are many tests to diagnose an AUD used by doctors like:

  • The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). A 10-item self-report screening to assess alcohol consumption, drinking behaviors, and alcohol-related problems administered by clinicians. Questions such as “How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?” are scored. A score of 8 and above indicates hazardous or harmful alcohol use.
  • The carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) test. This is a blood test that spots biomarkers of excess alcohol use. It can potentially identify if someone is a binge drinker or a regular heavy drinker.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG). Electroencephalography uses diagnostic and screening tools to recognize patients with possible AUD. Some researchers support this to reduce the subjectivity of the AUDIT screening tool. Alcoholism-related EEG signals could allow physicians to make a more definitive diagnosis of AUD.
genetic predisposition to alcoholism

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

You may wonder if alcoholism is genetic because you have a couple of family members who struggle with it. Scientists have discovered that there is a 50/50 chance of being prone to alcohol use disorder (AUD), but the specific causes are still unknown. Pinpointing the biological basis for this danger is a crucial step in managing the disease.

Is It True That Alcoholism Skips A Generation?

Multiple variations of genes impact a person’s chance of developing an alcohol use disorder. There is no one “alcohol gene” that leads to the outcome of an AUD. Researchers have discovered over 400 locations in all the genetic information in an organism, and at least 566 variants within these locations could influence the extent of someone suffering alcohol abuse. Genes that link to alcohol metabolism, particularly ADH1B and ALDH2, seem closely tied to the risk for problem drinking.

Having a family history of AUD may increase the risk of a genetic predisposition to forming it, with risks intensified for parent-child transmission. Environmental factors also play a role in developing an AUD when a person has a family history of alcohol misuse. However, with multiple genes playing a role in the evolution of AUD, it is possible that this condition could skip a generation. If parents do not have AUD, it does not automatically mean that the offspring cannot develop it. Likewise, if a grandparent has an alcohol problem, but the parents don’t, that doesn’t mean a child won’t be prone to alcoholism.

Is Alcoholism Epigenetic?

Epigenetic mechanisms lead to functionally appropriate modifications of the genome as they induce steady changes in gene expression, which consequently affect the phenotypic outcome. These transcriptional control mechanisms, which can be inherited, are not accompanied by nucleotide changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms include histone modifications, movements of noncoding RNA, and chemical revisions of the DNA molecule itself. While the entanglement of DNA methylation in transcriptional regulation is a long-known marvel, the distinct role of 5-hydroxymethylation in this process still has to be examined. 

What Generation Consumes The Most Alcohol?

As much as the millennials are blamed for beer’s downward spirals, it appears that the next generation may be even worse news for the alcohol industry.

Berenberg Research reports that Gen Z prefers spirits like vodka or gin and favors wine to beer.

“Gen Z marks a turning point, being the first generation to prefer spirits to beer,” Javier Gonzalez Lastra wrote in the report.

While the exact year dividing Gen Z from millennials can be dim, Berenberg surveyed over 6,000 individuals from 16 to 22 across the US to determine the generation’s approach to drinking.

Can A Family History Of Alcoholism Affect Your Chances Of Becoming An Alcoholic?

is alcoholism hereditary or genetic
Source: Restore Health + Wellness Center

If AUD runs in your family and you may want to be mindful about your drinking or limit it. Remember that a combination of environmental factors and genetic predispositions leads to alcohol use disorders. So, there are various things you can control in your environment to try to avoid developing a problem. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans believe moderate drinking to 2 drinks for men and 1 for women per day. Staying within those boundaries, or possibly avoiding alcohol intake altogether, maybe a good idea. If you are a parent trying to

prevent or delay your child’s alcohol use, some strategies can include:

  • Sharing developmentally appropriate data and instruction about the dangers of alcohol use and your family history.
  • Keeping track of how your child spends their time and suggesting alcohol-free activities.
  • Setting family directions that include refraining from alcohol use.
  • Enabling your child to develop skills like problem-solving, communication, and listening.
  • Building your child’s confidence and sense of responsibility through youth leadership programs and observing older role models.

Alcoholism, if left untreated, can have negative health effects. Heavy drinking takes a toll on your body’s heart and entire cardiovascular system, bringing about problems such as cardiac arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and high blood pressure. When allowed to progress, these problems can lead to serious, irreversible health issues. But before all this happens or worsens for you, call us at (818) 722-9019. Restore Health and Wellness Center can help you on your journey.

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