Why Alcoholism Runs in Families

Alcoholism is frequently referred to as a family disease, and this is for many complex reasons. First, there is the overall impact living with an alcoholic can have on an entire family.

Someone who is addicted to alcohol will often become so preoccupied with their addiction that they aren’t able to dedicate the necessary time and energy to their family, including their spouse and children.

Alcoholics tend to display certain behaviors which can include aggression, dishonesty, violence and they can be difficult to get along with.

There are also effects on finances, work, school and other commitments, all of which impact not just the person with the addiction, but the people close to them.

With that being said, there are other reasons that alcoholism is a family disease in many ways, and that’s because it can run in families.

Article at a Glance:

  • Alcoholism is often called a family disease because it affects an entire family and runs in families.
  • Children with parents addicted to alcohol are more likely than their peers to be addicted to it too.
  • Genetics plays a role in why alcoholism runs in families.
  • Environmental factors cause alcoholism to run in families and contribute to children’s substance use disorders.
Why Alcoholism Runs in Families
One of the most common questions a lot of people have surrounding alcoholism is whether or not it’s genetic, and if so, what happens when alcoholism runs in the family.

First, it’s tough to directly answer the question of whether or not alcoholism is genetic and why alcoholism runs in families. Alcoholism itself is a complicated disease, but there are links between families and the addiction to alcohol.

For example, children with parents who are alcoholics are anywhere from three to four times more likely than peers to be addicted to alcohol.

Related Topic: Am I an alcoholic

This has shown that having an alcoholic parent can increase the risk of a child being an alcoholic, although this doesn’t mean that will definitely be the case, nor does it show a concrete reason as to why this is the case.

While alcoholism itself isn’t considered a choice by most medical professionals, it’s important to note, particularly when alcoholism runs in the family, that taking the first drink is a choice. When someone decides to drink for the first time, particularly if alcoholism runs in their family, they are putting themselves at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

Once you drink for the first time, you are putting yourself in a position where you could potentially become addicted to alcohol, especially if there is a history in your family. When alcoholism runs in the family, the best thing you can do is never take the first drink, as tempting as it may be.

There are some underlying genetic issues that can lead to alcoholism or increase the likelihood of drinking becoming a problem, which is why people say alcoholism runs in families.

Research has shown that genetics are responsible for about 50 percent of the risk a person has for developing alcohol use disorder. This means that while they play a role, they’re not the only thing that determines if a person will become addicted to alcohol.

Some of the genes that can play a role in alcoholism include those genetic components that impact how we metabolize alcohol. For example, many people who are Asian have a genetic variant that changes the way they metabolize alcohol, creating unpleasant symptoms when they drink. This leads them to avoid alcohol in many cases, reducing their likelihood of becoming an alcoholic.

While genetics do play a role in why alcoholism runs in families, it’s important to realize this isn’t the only reason, nor is it always the case. As was noted above, about 50 percent of the risk of becoming an alcoholic is genetic, but that means the other 50 percent has nothing to do with genetics.

Some of the contributing reasons why alcoholism runs in families have nothing to do with genetics. Instead, it’s about the environment alcohol creates for children. A child living with an alcoholic may experience a chaotic, disruptive and even harmful environment, and this can contribute to the development of a substance use disorder.

Often when a parent is an alcoholic the home life situation can include aggression, violence, parents with psychological problems and financial difficulties.

If you’re someone who is worried about what happens when alcoholism runs in the family because you’ve experienced it, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of finding yourself in a similar situation.

First, it’s important to avoid underage drinking, not only because it’s illegal but also because it’s been shown to increase the chance of becoming an alcoholic.

It’s also important that when you’re an adult, you drink moderately, if at all.

You can also speak with your doctor or a mental health care provider if you have concerns about the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic when alcoholism runs in the family.

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