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Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Our DNA dictates what we’ll look like and how we’ll behave. These genes are passed on to us through our family, which is why we can have similar traits as distant relatives or behavioral characteristics similar to family members that we’ve never even met. Among the behavioral traits that parents can pass on to their children is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. Many adult children of alcoholic parents have wondered, “is alcoholism genetic?” for fear of developing the same condition. Banyan Treatment Centers Texas is addressing whether or not alcoholism is hereditary or genetic and the signs of alcoholism you should be aware of.

Does Alcoholism Run in Families?

Yes, alcoholism runs in families, but is alcoholism genetic? Although it is a genetically inherited disease, there isn’t a single alcoholic gene responsible for it. Those who do not have a family history of alcohol use disorders can still become addicted to alcohol. Whether a person develops an alcohol use disorder depends not only on genetics or family history of addiction but also on various social and environmental factors. Numerous adult children of alcoholics are responsible drinkers, or they have never had a drink in their lives.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, genes are only responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. This means that genes alone do not determine whether a person will struggle with an addiction to alcohol.1

Additionally, when it comes to understanding alcoholism and genetics, it’s important to be aware of the possible social and environmental factors that play into this disease. Things like work, stress, relationships, and learned behavior can also affect whether a person develops a drinking problem. Additionally, mental illness and alcoholism are linked.

Mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia are behavioral genes that could act as a catalyst for alcoholism. People with these disorders often turn to alcohol or drug abuse to cope with their symptoms. Mental disorders can be hereditary and environmental, which offers a partial explanation for the link between alcohol addiction and genetics.

Risk Factors for Alcoholism: Environment and DNA

So why and how is alcoholism inherited? Our hereditary behaviors interact with our environment to create the basis of our decisions, thoughts, and behaviors. Some people turn to alcohol due to stress, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, and even trauma. However, even if you do have a family history of alcoholism, you’d have to be driven by a nonhereditary factor to engage in alcohol abuse.

In other words, while a family history of alcoholism may play a role in the development of the disease, the catalyst or what drives a person to abuse alcohol may be things like work stress, relationship problems, or financial problems, which are not hereditary.

Some common risk factors for alcoholism include:

  • Aggressive behavior in childhood
  • Childhood trauma
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Poor social skills
  • Experimentation with substance abuse
  • Poverty
  • Availability of alcohol
  • Drug accessibility
  • Peer pressure
  • Spending time with people who engage in substance abuse
  • Witnessing violence
  • Exposure to trauma

The genetics of alcoholism only go so far, but the more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol use disorder. Other risk factors like mental illness that are hereditary can increase the likelihood of developing a drinking problem. An addiction to alcohol is extremely dangerous and difficult to recover from without professional help. Banyan Treatment Centers Texas offers alcohol detox treatment, during which our team monitors and treats withdrawal symptoms.

Common Traits of an Alcoholic

Those with a family history of alcoholism have the highest risk of becoming alcoholics. Additionally, if you have more than one relative with an alcohol use disorder, you may have inherited genes that put you at risk. Even so, just because someone is susceptible to alcoholism does not mean they’re going to develop this condition. While we may not be able to control our genetic makeup, we can take certain precautions to prevent addiction.

It’s important to pay attention to any signs of alcohol abuse in yourself or a loved one. Understanding these signs will allow you to catch this problem in its earlier stages and find an alcohol treatment program.

Typical traits of an alcoholic can include:

  • Constantly thinking of or talking about alcohol
  • Thinking of the next time that you’ll be able to drink
  • Blaming others when confronted for negative behavior that resulted from drinking
  • Becoming defensive when confronted about your drinking problem
  • Making excuses to drink
  • Inability to control your drinking, cut down on, or quit drinking
  • Financial struggles as a result of drinking
  • Neglecting responsibilities with family, work, or school because of drinking
  • Being irritable when sober or not drinking

The more educated you are about alcoholism, the better you’ll be able to support those who suffer from addiction and break down the harmful stigmas of alcoholism. If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or someone else, this is your sign to get help. Our rehab facility offers different types of Texas addiction treatment that provide you with a safe and effective route to recovering from addiction.

To learn more about the admissions process and our addiction services available at our Banyan Texas rehab, call us now at 888-280-4763.


  1. NIH - Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder

Related Readings:

The Truth About Exhaustion After Quitting Alcohol

Signs of Alcohol Dementia

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.