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Can You Inherit Alcoholism?

You inherit your eye color, your hair color and many aspects of your personality from your parents, grandparents and extended family. While much of what you inherit is beneficial and helps to shape you as a person, some of what you inherit can put you at risk for a variety diseases ranging from heart disease to addiction. Some Louisville residents may be wondering if having alcoholic parents or grandparents puts them at greater risk for developing this disease. Studies show that individuals with alcoholic parents are more than four times more likely to abuse alcohol or become addicted than those without this genetic predisposition. They also, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), “have a higher risk for many other behavioral and emotional problems,” which can, in and of themselves, contribute to the development of alcohol or other drug abuse problems (“A Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?” June 2012).

Increased risk does not guarantee the development of any disease, as the NIAAA reveals, “more than one-half of all children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic,” but it does mean that individuals should be aware of problems they may develop in their relationship to alcohol. Genes are not solely responsible for the development of alcohol use problems, as addiction involves the interaction of genetic, social, environmental and other factors.

Even if alcoholism is not present in your immediate family, you can inherit factors that contribute to its development. According to the NIAAA, your risk of developing alcoholism increases if you grow up in a family with a depressed parent or parent with other mental health concerns, if your parents abuse alcohol and other drugs even if addiction is not present and if familial conflicts result in aggression or violence. Even these are not guaranteed predictors of addiction nor is a lack of them guaranteed protection. While those coming from alcoholic homes may not become addicted, those coming from families with no history of addiction, mental health or violence may develop one or more substance abuse problems. Addiction is a complex disease, and individuals can only know and mitigate their risk factors.

Treating Inherited Alcoholism

Knowing how and why your alcoholism developed influences how it should be treated. The NIAAA explains that some forms of drug treatment for alcoholism work better for those certain genes, as “the drug naltrexone has been shown to help some, but not all, alcohol-dependent patients to reduce their drinking…alcoholic patients with variations in a specific gene respond positively to treatment with the drug, while those without the specific gene do not” (“Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder”). Addiction professionals explore all underlying causes of alcoholism to determine the best course of treatment on both a physical and psychological level. If you or a loved one in Louisville is struggling with alcohol abuse, there is real, effective help available. Call our helpline to speak with one of our recovery experts. We are here 24 hours a day to help you find the treatment resources that will work for you or your family member. We understand the struggle of addiction, and we can direct you to available and effective recovery resources. All calls are free and confidential, so please do not hesitate to reach out for help today.

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