Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a chronic condition characterized by a strong craving for alcohol and the inability to control one’s drinking. It can have serious consequences for an individual’s physical and mental health, as well as their relationships and overall quality of life.
While the precise cause of alcoholism is not fully understood, research has shown that both genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role in its development. Knowing whether genetics played a role in the development of alcoholism can also help an individual understand their risk of relapse and the potential effectiveness of certain treatment approaches.
In this post, we’ll understand the role of genetics in the development of alcoholism, which will hopefully help an individual feel less stigmatized or responsible for their disorder. Many people struggling with alcoholism may feel guilty or ashamed about their condition and may be reluctant to seek help as a result. Knowing those genetics can play a role in the development of alcoholism can help an individual feel more accepting of their condition and more willing to seek the help they need.
Table of Contents
The Role Of Genetics In Alcoholism
It is well-established that genetics can play a role in an individual’s risk of developing alcoholism. There is a strong genetic component to many mental health conditions, and alcoholism is no exception. In fact, research has shown that genetics can account for up to 50% of the risk of developing alcoholism. This data must be taken with a very strong and obvious warning. Whereas genetics can predetermine certain physical and even mental conditions, an addiction to alcohol can only develop when alcohol is consumed. That may seem like a very obvious statement, but it is a vital one. There is nothing to link alcohol to genes. There are certain propensities to develop anxiety or thrill seeking that may be genetic to a certain degree. Those individuals will seek to fill the void of fear, or the void of lack, and it is possible that alcohol may become the source and solution to the seeking. But is it not predetermined.
Several studies have identified specific genetic variations that are more common in individuals with alcohol use disorder compared to those without the disorder. These genetic variations may affect the way the brain processes alcohol and the level of pleasure or reward individual experiences when drinking, which can increase the risk of developing a problem with alcohol. Additionally, some research has suggested that certain genetic factors may influence an individual’s susceptibility to the negative consequences of alcohol, such as liver disease or addiction.
While genetics can increase an individual’s risk of developing alcoholism, it is important to note again that this is not a deterministic factor. Many people with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism do not develop the disorder, while others who do not have such a predisposition may still struggle with alcohol abuse. This highlights the complex interplay between genetics and environmental factors in the development of alcoholism, and the importance of addressing both in treatment.
Environmental Factors And Alcoholism
While genetics and family history can play a role in an individual’s risk of developing alcoholism or alcohol tolerance, environmental factors also significantly contribute to this risk. Gene and environment interactions are the main determining factor for why someone has substance use disorder, according to many experts. This includes social and environmental factors. Some argue that this makes “alcoholism” hereditary to a degree but leaves room for other factors to influence the outcome as well.
These factors can include social and cultural influences, such as the availability and acceptance of alcohol in a person’s community. For example, if alcohol is readily available and its use is socially acceptable in an individual’s community, they may be more likely to develop a drinking problem. This is certainly true for women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s in Western heavy drinking cultures.
Trauma and stress can also play a role in the development of alcoholism. Some people may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with difficult experiences or emotions. This can be particularly true if an individual lacks healthy coping mechanisms or has a history of trauma. In these cases, alcohol may provide temporary relief, but it can also lead to a cycle of drinking to cope with stress and the negative consequences that result from this drinking.
It is important to note that the relationship between genetics and environmental factors in the development of alcoholism is complex and multifaceted. Both genetics and environmental factors can contribute to an individual’s risk of developing the disorder, and it is often the interplay between these factors that determines an individual’s risk. This highlights the importance of addressing both genetics and environmental factors in the treatment of alcoholism.
Treatment Options For Alcoholism
Treatment for alcoholism typically involves addressing both the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the disorder, as well as any underlying emotional or psychological issues that may be driving the use of alcohol. One common approach to treating alcoholism is therapy, which can help individuals identify and address the underlying issues that may be contributing to their drinking.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a particularly effective form of therapy for alcoholism and mental illness that exacerbates substance abuse, as it helps individuals identify and change negative patterns of thought and behavior that may be contributing to their drinking. Other forms of therapy, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and contingency management, may also be helpful in the treatment of alcoholism and a person’s risk for abusing alcohol.
Coaching can also be an important part of treatment for alcoholism or similar issues like drug abuse. Alcoholism coaching typically involves working with a trained professional who can help individuals develop strategies for managing their disorder and achieving their recovery goals. This may involve setting and working towards specific goals, such as reducing alcohol consumption or building a support network, as well as addressing any underlying issues that may be contributing to the use of alcohol.
Reserve Your Masterclass Place
3 Steps To Get Your Power Back & Solve Alcohol Problems
If you are dealing with alcoholism and are determined to address this issue, it may be helpful to research the support options provided by The Alcohol Coach for women struggling with alcohol dependency. Our approach emphasizes positivity and self-empowerment—we avoid using labels and shame—which has helped many women overcome alcohol dependency.
Consider exploring The Alcohol Coach’s innovative and forward-thinking approach as you work towards conquering your alcohol dependency.
Avoiding Labels Like “Alcohol Addiction”
In this article, you might notice that we use ‘labels’ such as “alcoholic”, “disease”, and other identifiers that are used to link individuals together by their habits with alcohol. Though they are used colloquially, we believe them to perpetuate limiting beliefs.
A key tenet of The Alcohol Coach is that the way to overcome alcohol addiction is through empowerment, not retreating into a space of powerlessness or victim status.
So, even though we may use these terms to communicate a point as it is known by the general public, keep in mind that our core beliefs dictate that these terms be avoided as much as possible.
The relationship between genetics and alcoholism is complex and multifaceted. While genetics can play a role in an individual’s risk of developing the disorder, environmental factors such as social and cultural influences, as well as trauma and stress, also contribute to the development of alcoholism.
Therapy and coaching can be highly effective in the treatment of alcoholism, as they provide individuals with the tools and support they need to address the root causes of their disorder and achieve lasting recovery. These approaches can help individuals develop coping strategies, build a support network, and identify and address any underlying emotional or psychological issues that may be contributing to their drinking
Understanding the role of genetics in the development of alcoholism can be an important step in the process of seeking help and finding an effective treatment. It can provide individuals with a greater understanding of their condition, reduce stigma and guilt, and help them make informed decisions about their treatment and recovery journey.
Hi, I'm Michela
I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!
Keep me in the loop!
Want more inspiration, knowledge and ideas about alcohol and how to make the changes you want stick? Sign up here to receive more articles and news like this.