February 29, 2024

How Are Alcoholism and Genetics Linked?

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Alcoholism and genetics can be closely interrelated. Researchers discovered that there is a 50% chance of someone being predisposed to alcoholism if their family has a history of alcohol misuse. That said, the precise causes of alcohol use disorder – the clinical term for alcoholism – are still unknown.

This guide to alcoholism and genetic predisposition explores the following key issues:

  • Is alcoholism genetic?
  • Is alcoholism hereditary?
  • Is there an alcoholic gene?

Connections Between Genetics and Alcoholism

The likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder is closely linked to both genetics and family history, with each accounting for approximately half of the risk. Genetics are inherited, yet family history extends to more than just genetic makeup –  it also includes the environment in which someone grows up. Factors such as childhood abuse, parental challenges, and the presence of mental health disorders in immediate family members can all increase the risk of developing substance addiction.

Researchers have explored alcohol addiction and genetics within family trees to pinpoint hereditary elements that might contribute to this disorder. Groundbreaking research published in 2012 identified 11 gene pairs associated with an increased propensity for excessive drinking and addictive behaviors related to alcohol. This research, initially conducted on animals and subsequently applied to human subjects, revealed that many of these gene pairs also correlate with neuropsychiatric conditions beyond AUD – including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and cocaine addiction (stimulant use disorder), for instance.

Certain genes may either help someone in managing their alcohol intake or predispose them to abstain from it, while different genes might increases the chance of alcohol misuse. The expression of these genes is influenced by environmental factors. For instance, if a child is raised in a home where a parent misuses drugs, battles mental illness, faces significant financial hardship, or similar stresses, and possesses a gene associated with alcohol use disorder, their chances of developing the condition in later life are significantly increased. Integrating prevention and education initiatives into routine medical examinations can mitigate this risk. While genetics play a role in the development of alcoholism, they are not its sole determinant.

Can Alcoholism be Genetic?

Does alcoholism run in families, then? Individuals with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism are at an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorders if they engage in alcohol abuse. Although the tendency towards alcoholism can be inherited, the actual development of an alcohol use disorder also hinges on social and environmental influences. This means that not everyone who carries genes that make them vulnerable to alcoholism ends up with genetic alcoholism – some conform to moderate drinking guidelines, while others may choose to abstain entirely.

Is There an Alcohol Gene?

The risk of developing alcohol use disorder is influenced by myriad genes and gene variations, debunking the myth of a singular alcoholic gene responsible for the development of this alcoholism. Research has identified over 400 genomic locations with more than 500 variants that could affect a person’s susceptibility to alcohol misuse. Genes involved in alcohol metabolism like ADH1B and ALDH2 have a strong correlation with the likelihood of problematic drinking.

Having a family history of alcoholism can heighten the genetic risk of developing such disorders, especially from parent to child, although this does not mean that alcoholism is inherited in every case. Environmental factors, when combined with a history of alcohol abuse in the family, further heighten the risk of alcohol use disorder. It is also possible for the disorder to skip generations, so the absence of alcoholism in parents does not guarantee immunity for their children, just as a grandparent’s alcohol issues do not necessarily predetermine an outcome for subsequent generations.

Prevention Strategies for Alcoholic Genetics

Prevention strategies for those with alcoholic genetics focus on mitigating risk through early intervention, education, and lifestyle choices. These strategies can be especially effective in reducing the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder and include:

  • Awareness and education: Increasing awareness about the genetic risks associated with alcohol use and educating individuals and families about the signs of alcohol use disorder can help in early detection and prevention. Understanding the role genetics play in alcohol dependency can encourage at-risk individuals to adopt cautious attitudes toward alcohol consumption.
  • Healthy coping mechanisms: Teaching and encouraging the use of healthy coping strategies for stress, anxiety, and depression, rather than turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism, can reduce the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. This includes promoting physical activity, mindfulness practices, and seeking professional help for mental health issues.
  • Monitoring and support: For those identified as genetically predisposed to alcohol use disorder, regular monitoring by healthcare professionals and support from family and community can provide a safety net. Early intervention programs and counseling can offer guidance and support to prevent the onset of alcohol misuse.
  • Limiting exposure: Reducing exposure to environments where heavy drinking is normalized or encouraged can help prevent the initiation into excessive drinking patterns. Encouraging participation in social activities that do not revolve around alcohol can offer alternative sources of enjoyment and stress relief.
  • Genetic counseling: For families with a history of alcohol use disorder, genetic counseling can provide valuable insights into the risks and preventive measures. It can help individuals understand their susceptibility to alcohol dependence and guide them in making informed decisions about their alcohol consumption.
  • Policy and community initiatives: Advocacy for policies that limit alcohol accessibility and marketing, along with community programs aimed at alcohol education and prevention, can contribute to a broader culture of responsible alcohol use and support individuals at risk.

By implementing these prevention strategies, individuals with a genetic predisposition to alcohol use disorder can take proactive steps to protect themselves and potentially reduce the risk of developing alcohol-related disorders.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Alcohol affects the brain and body, but alcohol addiction is highly treatable with the right combination of evidence-based therapies. We can help you with this at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Begin your long-term recovery with supervised detoxification at one of our luxury rehabs located in Newport Beach or Long Beach, California. Access medications and benefit from continuous clinical care as you move beyond alcohol dependence.

During ongoing inpatient treatment, you will tackle the psychological side of alcohol addiction alongside peers dealing with similar issues. Since all alcohol addictions differ, you will have chance to engage with personalized treatments that might include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Holistic treatments
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning

Call Gratitude Lodge at 800-994-2184 today and begin your recovery from alcohol addiction tomorrow.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.
Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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