Why Alcoholism Is Not Hereditary

Why alcoholism is not hereditary might not be a title you thought you’d see, because in many ways the conventional medical assertion is that alcoholism is genetic, at least partially, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

A lot of people think alcoholism is hereditary to the point that if they have a parent who is an alcoholic, they are destined to be also. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, and addiction is a complex situation with many layers that contribute to the equation.

The following looks at why alcoholism is not hereditary in some ways, and how it does have genetic components in others.

Why Alcoholism Is Not Hereditary
Before delving into why alcoholism is not hereditary, or why it is, it can be valuable to have at least a general understanding of the difference in two terms: genetic and hereditary.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the exact same.

First, there are some diseases that are caused by abnormalities in DNA, and this is the general way some conditions can be passed down from parent to child.

However, a genetic disease, such as alcoholism, occurs because of genome abnormalities in an individual’s genetic makeup, while a hereditary disease is caused by a mutation in a gene that can be transmitted through generations.

Genetics and hereditary are of course close to one another in many ways, but there is a lot of debate as to whether or not alcoholism is genetic or hereditary. As it stands right now, there aren’t a clear set of genes that are passed down, why is why alcoholism is not hereditary, at least in the strictest sense of the definition. Researchers lean more toward the idea that alcoholism is genetic, however.

Central to the discussion of why alcoholism is not hereditary includes looking at the role of genetics in the disease.

Scientists believe that about 50 percent of the reason a person has alcohol use disorder can be attributed to genes, but even this doesn’t necessarily mean there are genes that automatically program you to be an alcoholic or not.

For example, when researchers look at genetics and the role they play in alcoholism, they think more for example about whether someone feels pleasurable effects of it differently than another person, or whether someone metabolizes alcohol in a way that makes them less prone to throwing up or feeling a hangover. If someone has these genes, they may be more inclined to drink or abuse alcohol as a result. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are definitive X, Y, and Z genes that determine whether you will be an alcoholic or not.

Most of the genes that commonly play a role in alcohol use disorder and alcoholism are associated with the brain’s reward center. One such gene is one that’s responsible for how the neurotransmitter GABA moves between neurons.

Other genes that play a role in alcoholism, at least as researchers believe currently, include the size of the amygdala. Some studies have some that people with a smaller than average amygdala may be more likely to have alcoholism run in their family, because of the role this part of the brain plays in cravings, and people who are genetically predisposed to alcoholism may have fewer signals in the brain that let them know when it’s time to stop drinking.

Also, when people have abnormal serotonin levels, they may be predisposed to alcoholism.

So what you see, when exploring why alcoholism is not hereditary but can be genetic, is that right now there’s not one set of genetics or mutations that say “you’re an alcoholic.” Instead, there are genetic similarities that can be seen in some alcoholics that lead researchers to believe these can contribute to a higher-than-average likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.

Children of alcoholics often experience anxiety because they’ve heard that they have a two to four times greater chance of experience alcoholism later in their own lives, but at the same time, less than half of children of alcoholics actually develop a substance abuse problem.

This is because your environment plays a tremendous role in how genes are expressed, and what you learn when you’re younger influences how you view alcohol later in your life. This means that even if you have no family history of alcoholism, you can still develop a substance use disorder because of the environment you live in.

Some of the environmental factors that play a role in whether or not a person develops alcohol use disorder can include drinking at an early age, being raised in a stressful or abusive home, and having underlying mental health problems.

What all this indicates is not just why alcoholism is not hereditary in the strictest sense, but also the fact that if you have family members who are alcoholics, it is possible for you to escape this cycle. Just because your parents may struggle with alcoholism doesn’t mean you’re destined to as well, because it’s a complex situation with many layers, and there are also steps you can take to help avoid becoming an alcoholic.