Is Alcoholism Hereditary - The Discovery House Los Angeles CA
Is Alcoholism Hereditary

Is Alcoholism Hereditary

This may lead you to wonder, will I become an alcoholic if my parents are? Although a family history of alcoholism is one of the known reasons for people to develop alcoholism themselves, it does not mean it is a guarantee. Over the course of this article, we will answer the question, ‘Is alcoholism hereditary?’

If you find that one person in your family is an alcoholic, you may begin to worry that this will happen to you. If you are an alcoholic, and you have close relatives who are also alcoholics, this may lead you to believe it is at the fault of that person. However, millions of Americans suffer from alcoholism whose family members were not alcoholics as well.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary or Genetic?

If you have family members who are alcoholics, you might wonder if it is safe to drink if your family member has a problem. You may even want to protect your children if you suffer from alcoholism.

You may also be worried that alcoholism will affect your future. If you cannot get your alcoholism under control then it will. There are ways to minimize this risk, however, and that involves understanding how alcoholism is both hereditary and genetic.

Some people only show a history of alcohol abuse versus an alcohol addiction, there is a difference. There is research that shows there is a family connection to alcoholism, but also that there are factors that lead to a greater risk of addiction.

What is Hereditary Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined by someone who is addicted to alcohol. They cannot function without it and must consume it every day. It is also a physical dependence on drinking and is now considered a disease. This has led to many people wondering about the hereditary action of alcoholism.

Those who have a family history of alcoholism may also have low sensitivity or inherited tolerance to alcohol. This means that they can drink more without feeling the effects as much. This is the case even before developing a physical tolerance from drinking. However, if you have a family member who is an alcoholic, you may be able to see the negative sides of drinking.

Most people do not realize that you do not have to be a serious alcoholic to suffer all of the negative effects of heavy drinking. In fact, those who binge drink can even suffer from blackouts without being an alcoholic. Additionally, types of cancer and other injuries are specifically common to those who engage in binge drinking.

Common characteristics among those with alcoholism:

  • Craving alcohol and thinking about it throughout the day
  • Not being able to control the amount they drink
  • Losing control of life because of drinking
  • Brain and body being physically dependent upon alcohol
  • Tolerance to alcohol has developed tremendously, leading to the need to drink more to feel the same effect

If you are suffering from alcoholism then you are most likely unable to stop drinking without suffering from withdrawal symptoms. You might want to stop, but you will not be able to. Withdrawal symptoms make it difficult to get sober.

Alcohol Use Disorders and Your Genes

Alcoholism Hereditary

Looking into alcoholism being genetic would mean that it is similar to diabetes. This means it would be something that could run in your family. Similarly, as with alcoholism, the trend of diabetes 2 in a family can end if one person decides to stop eating unhealthy food.

Although children of alcoholics are likely to develop behavioral and emotional problems due to an alcoholic parent, they are also more likely to become an alcoholic. 50% of the children of alcoholics also become alcoholics, which means that hereditary alcoholism could go either way.

Risks of Alcoholism

There are some studies that show that children of alcoholic parents are more likely to excessively drink if the following is true:

  • Alcoholic parent has mental illness such as depression
  • Both parents have substance abuse problems
  • Parents severely abuse alcohol
  • Aggression and violence has resulted from family conflicts

It was also found that the risk of alcoholism is higher for children that come from broken homes. Despite this, these children are not guaranteed to become alcoholics, it is just that they have the risk factors that could lead to alcoholism.

Fruit Fly Similarities

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) have used fruit flies to look for similarities in humans. Essentially, scientists have found that drunken drosophila fruit flies seem to behave the same way humans do when they are drunk. Fruit flies also tend to show resistance to alcohol in the same way and are controlled by the same molecular mechanism as humans.

Genetically Sensitivities to Alcohol with Mice

Other studies have also been done in which scientists selectively bred two strains of mice. They look for those that are not genetically sensitive to alcohol, and those that are. The two strains show different behavior when exposed to the same amounts of alcohol. Those who are sensitive tend to get drunk, while those that are less sensitive to alcohol tend to tolerate alcohol for longer.

Your Choices

If you are concerned as to your possible hereditary alcoholism, then you need to consider making good choices when it comes to drinking alcohol. You can make your own choices. Whether or not your genes have the trait for alcoholism, or you have a family history of alcoholism, you still have free will. Your choices are influenced by your environment, friends, family, peers, access to alcohol, and social situations, but you can still make the right ones for your future.

Following an Example of Drinking

When children have parents that suffer from alcoholism, they are up to four more times more likely to become addicted to drinking. Although they are at greater risk, it does not mean that they cannot grow up to live life without abusing alcohol. This shows that there is always the option to make a choice.

Considering environmental factors in alcoholism is essential. This is because alcohol consumption can be influenced by genetic factors, but environmental ones as well. There have been many studies that indicate that genetic factors play a large role, such as a gene or combination of genes. However, it is also important to look into environmental factors as well.

This is actually important for those who have family members that are alcoholics. It is essential to look and see how you can avoid allowing this to persuade you into the same lifestyle. Especially because your chance at developing a dependency is higher than others.

Environmental Factors for Alcohol Use

Alcoholism Hereditary

Because genes only make up 50% of the risk for alcoholism, your environment can also challenge your ability to handle situations that may trigger your alcoholic tendencies. This is why you must think about the following.

Drinking at an Early Age

One of the main environmental risk factors for alcoholism is when children drink before the age of 15. When children have grown up in a household where they see their family drinking, it may lead them to drink earlier than their peers.

This is because they might be desensitized to drinking due to seeing it done so regularly. In fact, those who drink before 15 are six times more likely to become an alcoholic or abuse alcohol at some point during their lifetime.

Problematic Drinking Behaviors Being Normalized

Another reason that seeing alcohol is a risk factor for alcoholism, is that it can normalize drinking. Rather than having a positive parental figure, children can explore a bit too deeply. It is not a guarantee that these people will grow up to develop an alcohol use disorder, but it does increase the risk.

Exposure With Binge Drinking

Similarly, being exposed to a culture of binge drinking or any type of harmful drinking throughout adolescence can increase the chance of becoming an alcoholic. If you have never seen binge drinking, then you are less likely to partake in it. Therefore, seeing problematic drinking behaviors at a young age can lead to alcohol addiction.

Enabling an Alcoholic Leading to Alcoholism in The Enabler

After someone is already involved with abusing alcohol, those close to them may engage in enabling and sympathetic drinking. This is often the case with couples, where one of the partners has an alcohol use disorder. In this type of situation, the non-alcoholic partner may begin drinking out of habit.

Not only is this the aspect of drinking with the alcoholic enabling, but it can even lead to alcoholism in the second partner. This is called “reciprocal drinking,” and is dangerous because if the negative behaviors are tolerated, we do not change them.

In early relationships, reciprocal drinking is common because the non-alcoholic may not be aware of the disease. As the relationship progresses, you may get to know that person better, and see that the behaviors are out of the ordinary. If you do not say anything, it becomes an enabling relationship that can lead to a worsening of the disease.

Holistic Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Alcoholism Hereditary

There are many holistic treatment methods for alcoholism. Although it is not good to only rely on holistic treatment options, they can be helpful.


Acupuncture is the act of using small needles to target specific parts of your body. It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine and is supposed to reduce alcohol cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. It is also commonly used to treat the anxiety and depression that are commonly found with alcoholism as well.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Although these are more of a mental health approach, mindfulness therapies have been used for a long time to keep people from relapsing. Relapse can be dangerous because it often leads to overdose in alcoholics who have been in recovery. These programs include meditations, teaching about thoughts and feelings, as well as learning to work through cravings instead of giving into them.

Kudzu Flower

Kudzu extract comes from a flower. It has shown some ability to help stop binge drinking and help stop heavy drinkers from drinking so much. This is thought to be due to the main ingredient in Ge Hua Jie Cheng San TCM formula. This is the most common blend used to treat intoxication and hangover.

There are a few main effects of the Kudzu flower. First off, it raises blood alcohol levels faster, making the user feel intoxicated sooner, and the next is drinking more slowly. However, it is not found to have an effect on alcohol cravings.


An herbal supplement made from the Withania somnifera plant, Ashwagandha is used in Indian medicine. It has been used to aid in alcohol withdrawal and cravings. However, in studies with alcohol-addicted mice, it also seemed to relieve anxiety.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is often used to help with liver health and is also used to protect against liver damage from drinking too much alcohol. There has been research that shows milk thistle has been able to help with alcohol-related liver diseases.

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Having a dual diagnosis means you suffer from both an alcohol use disorder as well as a mental health condition. There is a distinct link between substance abuse problems, such as alcoholism, and mental health issues. These issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression, are the most common amongst alcoholics and addicts. 

Dual diagnosis treatment is extremely helpful for people that suffer from both forms of disorders. Alcohol use disorder is best treated in a mental health treatment program. However, if you also have a mental health disorder, it is important to go to a mental health facility that treats both problems.

Is Long Term Recovery from Alcoholism Possible?

If you are suffering from alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder, you may wonder, are mental health and alcohol use linked? They can be linked, and in this case, you would need dual-diagnosis therapy. If you need any help, of any kind, to recover from alcoholism, contact us today at The Discovery House. We can provide the assistance you need to live a long, sober life.