Genetics and Alcoholism: Is There a Connection?
Genetics and Alcoholism: Is There a Connection?
Researchers have spent years studying the possibility of a connection between genetics and alcoholism. Getting involved with alcohol is an individual’s choice that is affected by environment, peer pressure and availability. There are, however, things that make the choice more difficult and alcoholism more likely to occur, and one of those things is genetics.
If someone has a family history of addiction to alcohol, that does not mean they are doomed to the exact same fate. But alcoholism is hereditary, it can be passed on and it does make addiction harder to overcome.
How Genetics and Alcoholism are Related
Family history is the number one indicator of future alcoholism. If someone is relying on substances, such as drugs or alcohol, the body has a hard time functioning without them. Once something like alcohol gets deep enough into the system, it changes it. It goes into the bloodstream and literally changes the body’s design so that it cannot run smoothly without it. The problem is that the body is not designed to handle that kind of stress; yet, when addicted, it feels like that is exactly what it needs.
Withdrawal symptoms are intense for an addict because of this reason. If the body has re-engineered itself to need a substance, it will lash out if the substance is taken away. It is obvious then that if substances go into the bloodstream and change the body, those substances will be passed on to the addict’s children. Blood is thicker than water and one person’s addiction can be passed on to several relatives just because they have the misfortune of being related. Thus, the question about the genetics and alcoholism connection is partially answered.
If someone is already born with alcoholic tendencies in their bloodstream, then that could mean that a child is an addict before they are even born because it is already in their system. An individual with alcoholism in their family history can easily overcome that in their own lives, as long as their environment is not against them. A child that has an alcoholic parent thus has alcoholic tendencies.
While it is possible to still overcome genetics, it is difficult while being in a stressful environment. If alcohol is continuously available, the odds are stacked against someone simply because they have the blood of an addict streaming through their veins.
The taste or smell of alcohol will already trigger something in their system and make it very difficult to resist. Even something like a school party can be dangerous because of the alcohol involved. People with a family history of alcoholism have to work twice as hard to resist becoming addicted themselves and at a young age that can be difficult to do.
The problem is not nature versus nurture, but nature with nurture. If someone with no family history is pressured into drinking, they can make a choice with nothing interfering but their own mind, thus they can make their own decision. In this case, they were nurtured by their environment but it was not in their nature to participate.
In another instance, someone with a history can grow up in a healthy environment and never even know that they own alcoholic tenancies, thus it is in their nature to be an alcoholic but they were not nurtured to become one. It is when nature and nurture are combined that things get tricky. If someone has the nature of being an alcoholic and their environment nurtures that nature, the odds are stacked against them. One person can defeat an enemy, but two enemies combined becomes twice as difficult.
Although physical genetics are a huge factor, it does not stop at just that. Children that are adopted as infants by an alcoholic parent are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves. This shows that it is not just physical genetics, but mental genetics as well. If someone grows up with a family all their life, no matter what the government might say, that person is going to view them as their relatives.
This can be the act of nurturing all over again, but there is a bit of mental power at work as well. If an adopted child feels connected enough to their adopted family, the brain can convince itself that they are blood. The mind, it is a powerful thing. If the brain has decided that an alcoholic parent shares the same blood, along with a nurturing environment, it can be convinced that it is its nature to become an addict, because the parent is an addict.
There is nothing closer than family. Friends are chosen but family is blood that cannot be returned. In many ways, that can be a blessing. But, there is one way in which it cannot. If the connection between genetics and alcoholism is possible, then many individuals will have a rough road ahead.