You may have heard before that people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol and other substances or behaviors are predisposed to having an “addiction” gene.
Our DNA determines the entirety of our makeup, from our physical appearance to our behavior and mannerisms. Because of this fact, it makes sense that having issues with addiction, specifically alcohol problems, is often passed down through generations.
Maybe you’ve been told that you have a family history of alcoholism, so that means you might have an addictive personality and should stay away from drugs and alcohol.
Maybe you’ve heard anecdotes about your uncle gambling away his entire savings, then turning to alcohol to cope with the fact that he had no money to his name as a way to try to scare you away from participating in such behaviors and the development of an alcohol use disorder. Maybe it worked, or maybe it didn’t.
It’s true that you can have inherent alcoholic tendencies from genetic factors, but often environmental factors and societal factors lead to addiction, and one cannot happen without the influence of the other.
The best way for you to understand your specific link to alcohol, drug abuse, or other substance abuse is to be open with your family and do your own research on the subject of alcoholism.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol addiction as a medical condition where you cannot stop or control your use of alcohol, despite the negative effects and consequences it can have on your life and health.
You can have a mild, moderate, or severe addiction to alcohol that can impact your day-to-day functioning in different ways, including changes to reward and dopamine receptors in the brain.
People with an addiction to alcohol will see it come between them and their family and friends and damage professional relationships, as well as their future. Luckily for those who struggle, recovering from alcohol addiction is possible, regardless of whether it was passed down to you genetically.
Is There an Alcoholic Gene?
There is not just one specific gene that can determine whether or not you will end up with alcohol addiction.
People worldwide struggle with addiction to alcohol, but along with genetic predisposition, social and environmental influences can impact the likelihood of whether or not someone expresses their addiction.
Research on the human genome has proven that alcoholism is a complex genetic disease, and the presence of certain genes, like ADH1B and ALDH2, are known to affect your propensity for developing an addiction.
Still, research shows there is no “alcoholic” gene. While family history is sure to increase your risk, the world around you will shape you into whomever you become. In many ways, you control your own destiny through interactions with the world. Environment and society both play a huge role in the influence of alcohol and should always be considered when it comes to alcohol addiction.
Environment vs. Genetics
While genes can influence your risk of developing a substance use disorder, that’s not the only thing that leads you towards addiction. Our behaviors are hereditary, but they interact with the environment we are brought up in.
Just because you carry a gene that makes you predisposed to alcoholism doesn’t mean that you are born craving a drink! And that’s because there hasn’t been any action to yet influence your decisions. Your environment will influence whether or not you develop an alcohol addiction.
Some people are more prone to stress and have unhealthy coping methods, like smoking cigarettes or nicotine. Alcohol is a way to relax your system and relieve anxiety, but this can have more negative impacts than good when consumed in unhealthy amounts.
You may not have had a great childhood and been thrown into harmful situations, leading to a dependency on alcohol. Whatever the case may be, every moment of your life impacts the next, which means recovery is always possible.
Certain factors can influence whether or not you become addicted to alcohol. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop an addiction, so it can be helpful to spot them as they are happening. Risk factors can be both hereditary and environmental, so some are easier to control. Some risk factors include:
- The availability of alcohol for experimentation
- Parental attention and supervision in critical years
- Lack of social acceptance or comfortability
- Living through poverty
- Experiencing instances of abuse
- Aggressive behaviors as a child
- Sheltering from alcohol or overexposure to alcohol
- Diagnosis of certain mental disorders
- Drug addiction or other addictive behaviors
On the other side of risk factors are protective factors that help to limit the chances of someone becoming addicted to alcohol. Different factors influence better decision-making skills, but it’s no fault of your own if you weren’t given the following:
- Having parental monitoring or guidance
- Learning about the effects of alcohol
- Instilling anti-alcohol policies in your household
- Doing well in school
- Having access to addiction resources
How To Know If You Are at Risk
To better your chances at avoiding an alcohol addiction, some things can help you know if you are at risk. People who have alcoholism run in their family history can assume that they are at a higher risk of developing it. If multiple family members have problems with alcohol and other substances, you have likely been passed down one of the genes that influence the risk of alcoholism.
Having the genes inside you does not mean that you are fated to become an alcoholic. These genes have to be activated by environmental and societal influences.
You cannot avoid some things because they are out of your realm of control, like your genetics and what kind of family you were born into. To prevent a predisposition into becoming an alcohol addiction, you should:
- Learn about your family history
- Manage your stress and learn healthy coping strategies
- Research addiction and its symptoms
- Maintain healthy relationships, both with friends and family
- Seek out counseling
If you don’t have access to all the resources in the world or the means to seek out counseling or treatment, that doesn’t mean that you are bound to become an alcoholic. You can avoid peer pressure and still find healthy ways to enjoy your time and not be ostracized by your peers.
It can sometimes be difficult to find the best in your situation, but building relationships with people who want you to be successful is one way to ensure that you stay on the right track!
Are You Born with Alcohol Use Disorder?
To put it simply, you can not be born with alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you are born predisposed to becoming an alcoholic due to your genetics, that is different from actively having the disorder. Genetics end up calculating only 50 percent of the risk factors, while the rest is reliant on environmental influence. This means that you have to develop it over time, and you still do have some control over whether or not it ends up happening.
How Soba Recovery Centers Can Help
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, it is best to ask for help. Alcohol addiction can happen to anyone—males or females, genetic predisposition or no genetic predisposition. The people around you want you to be successful and see you live your healthiest and happiest life.
The best way to see success in your alcohol addiction recovery process is to allow the professionals at Soba Recovery Center to help you overcome your addiction. When you join a recovery center, either their inpatient or outpatient services, you gain access to professionals who are trained to treat you, resources for your addiction as well as your physical and mental health, and a community that wants to see you succeed.
Soba Recovery Centers offer a variety of services that are aimed at your recovery. We provide personalized treatment plans so that we can get to the bottom of your addiction and treat it from all angles. If you feel that your addiction is becoming uncontrollable, consider joining us for a longer inpatient residential stay so that you can get the care you deserve.
We want to help you in any way we can; through group therapy and medically-assisted treatment, you can fight against your addiction with more support than you might ever have imagined.
You are not alone in this fight! You do not have to be consumed by your genetic makeup, and it shouldn’t prevent you from living the life you deserve. Get help today when you reach out to one of our representatives! We are here to help you figure out the next step.
Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder | NIAAA
Genetics And Alcoholism | NCBI