According to some estimates, as many as 7-8% of Americans struggle with alcoholism. It’s a disease that can impact a person’s physical health, as well as, the wellbeing of those around him or her. You might be worried about the effects your spouse’s substance abuse is having on your children. And of course, you’re worried how your loved one’s drinking is affecting you and your relationship with them.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to 50% of your risk for drug or alcohol dependency is based on your unique genetic makeup. So is it true? Can addiction run in the family? Similar to environmental factors, your genetic disposition is considered to be another contributing factor that makes you more or less prone to addiction than other people.
In fact, experts believe that many mental illnesses, such as addiction, are linked to abnormalities in your genetic code. Exposing these genes to environmental factors such as stress, trauma, abuse or chemical substances sometimes triggers a mental illness in those who have inherited genetic susceptibility.
But why is your loved one drinking in the first place? Is alcoholism genetic or a choice? The truth is that addiction is a complex situation with many potential complicating factors. That being said, a family history of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can play a role in developing a substance use disorder.
Let’s take a look at what alcoholism really is and how it can run in families.
What is Alcoholism?
First and foremost, alcoholism is a disease that your loved one is struggling with. In simplest terms, it’s your loved one’s inability to control how much he or she drinks.
Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes for a minute and think about the intense cravings and desires to drink. These cravings can become so powerful that your days are filled with thinking about how you’ll get to the next drink. Periods between drinks might be uncomfortable or even painful as you experience withdrawal symptoms. Even when your alcohol use negatively affects your financial situation, personal relationships and physical health, you can’t seem to stop.
This is what your loved one is going through every single day. This is why your loved one isn’t able to simply stop drinking. it’s possible that they have either a genetic or environmental predisposition to developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Does Alcoholism Run in Families?
Genetics can play a role in someone developing alcoholism. Some people possess a gene that can increase feelings of discomfort or sickness when consuming alcohol, which typically leads to less use. However, other genetic configurations do the exact opposite. Instead of being turned off by alcohol consumption, some people seek comfort in drinking to help reduce stress and anxiety. It just depends on the combinations of genes of each individual.
However, as mentioned above, this is only part of the equation. While someone may be genetically prone to alcoholism, there tends to other factors that trigger the addiction. For example, growing up in an abusive household or living around people struggling with addiction can increase the chances of developing the condition. Conversely, growing up in a healthy, supportive environment correlates to lower rates of alcoholism.
Other factors like mental health struggles or early experiences with alcohol like underage drinking can make someone more likely to struggle with alcohol dependency issues, as well.
Is Alcoholism Genetic?
Think about your relatives, starting with your immediate family members. Are any of them currently struggling with addiction? Has anyone had a problem with drugs, alcohol or other substances in the past? If so, you may be likely to experience addiction yourself.
But what if you don’t know your family medical history very well? Because of the strong negative stigma of addiction, families sometimes hide addictions or brush them off. While it may be difficult for your family members to discuss this sensitive topic with you, don’t give up. Understanding your family’s history with drug or alcohol dependency can offer valuable new insight into your personal struggle with substance abuse.
Identifying Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
If you’re worried that someone you love might be addicted to alcohol, you can look for these warning signs:
- Drinking alone
- Inability to regulate how much he or she drinks
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Respiratory issues
- Nausea or vomiting
- Inability to remember
- Hand tremors
Find Help Overcoming Alcoholism at Footprints
The damage caused by addiction can be extensive. Alcoholism in particular can be dangerous when trying to go through the detox phase on your own. The decision to get treatment is on the person dealing with addiction, but you can encourage your loved one to seek help by Talking to them about their options.
At Footprints Beachside Recovery, our compassionate staff is dedicated to helping our clients find freedom from alcohol addiction. We understand that each person is different. In order to treat each individual case of addiction, the person needs to be treated on individual terms. That’s why we custom tailor each recovery plan to meet those specific needs.
Footprints Beachside Recovery also works with families to heal the damage caused by drugs like alcohol. If you’re concerned about someone struggling with alcoholism, contact our addiction specialists today.