Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Alcoholism is influenced by both hereditary and environmental factors. Addictions, particularly addictions to
alcohol tend to run in families and it is known that genes to play a role in that process.
Research has shown in recent years that people who have/had alcoholic parents are more likely to develop the
same disorder themselves.
Interestingly, men have a greater propensity towards alcoholism in this circumstance than women. People with
are at an even greater risk for becoming alcoholics.
The two main characteristics for becoming addicted to alcohol stem from having an immediate family member who is
an alcoholic and having a high-risk personality.
A person with a high-risk personality is one where he or she has lower inhibitions and thrives on taking risks
in most all situations.
If a person comes from a family with one or more alcoholics and likes to take risks, they should recognized that
they are at what is considered high risk for becoming an alcoholic.
Recent studies have determined that genetics plays a vital role in the development of alcoholism but the exact
genes or genetic pathways to addiction have not been found.
At this time, it is thought that the genetic tendency toward alcoholism in a person does not ensure that he or
she will become an alcoholic but instead just means that those people feel the effects of the alcohol more
intensely and quickly.
In effect, the determination of genetic risk is only a determination of higher risk toward the addiction and not
necessarily an indication of future alcoholism.
There was a gene discovered in 1990 called the DRD2 gene. This is the first gene that has proven to have any
link toward affecting the outcome of alcoholism in humans.
Again, considering the way this particular gene works, the person with the DRD2 gene would be thought to have a
greater pull towards the effects of alcohol compared to someone without the gene but having DRD2 does not guarantee
alcoholism in the person.
The urgent desire to detect a gene responsible for alcoholism is due in part to the urgent need to help
determine people who are at high risk when they are children.
It is thought that this could help stop them from becoming alcoholics in the first place.
It has been proven that these people should not ever take their first drink of alcohol but with children
drinking alcohol at younger and younger ages it is not always possible to stop them before discovering their
genetic tendency toward alcoholism.
If this can be determined at an early age and children raised to understand that taking that first drink for
them could very likely send them down the road to alcoholism, it may cut down on the number of alcoholics in the
Regardless of a genetic tendency toward alcoholism, it is still a conscious decision to choose to drink and to get
It has been said that the person with the genetic predisposition to alcoholism is an alcoholic at birth whether
or not he or she ever takes a drink.
Taking the drink initiates the disease into its active phase. The ability to stop drinking before becoming
addicted lies ultimately in the hands of the drinker.