Alcoholism is an addiction defined as excessive alcohol consumption. In small amounts, alcohol can provide beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. However, alcohol in large quantities can lead to social, physical, and psychological problems for the user. Anyone concerned a family member inherited the addiction from a parent or those who believe a family member will genetically pass the addiction on to a child needs to develop a better understanding of alcoholism. Whether alcoholism is environmental or hereditary, individuals with a family history of alcoholism display a higher risk of developing the addiction.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
Although specific causes for alcoholism remain unknown, quickly assessing biological and environmental factors plays a key role in controlling the addiction. When more than one family member is suffering from alcoholism, there is a higher risk the child will inherit genes that lead to developing alcoholism.
Genetics only account for half the risk of individuals developing alcoholism. Experts estimate there are more than 12 genes that contribute to alcohol use disorder. The ADH1B and ALDH2 genes directly relate to alcohol metabolism and are linked to developing drinking abuse. Other genes related to alcohol dependence are GABRA2 and CHRM2.
Many experts suggest alcohol use disorder or AUD is a disease that can occur among several members of a family. Though genetics and hereditary increase the likelihood of developing AUD, other factors increase this risk such as social and environmental factors.
There are many factors to reduce the risk of developing alcohol addiction. These factors include:
- Determine if the current amount of alcohol consumption is considered “high risk”
- Assess unhealthy coping methods with alcohol
- Research common symptoms of alcohol abuse
- Take action when drinking becomes excessive
- Identify the family history of alcoholism
Environmental Factors of Alcoholism
Some individuals self-medicate with alcohol when dealing with daily stressors related to family life or a fast-paced career. Environmental factors in addition to genetics lead to alcohol abuse. The more environmental factors an individual genetically susceptible to alcohol faces, the higher the risk for excessive alcohol consumption.
Children who grow up around alcohol or experience life with a parent suffering from alcohol addiction may normalize excessive alcohol use. Although being raised around alcohol will not lead to alcohol abuse, this environmental factor can sow seeds for problematic drinking. Experiencing binge drinking or a culture of excessive drinking at an early age can increase the probability of repeating a harmful drinking pattern in adulthood.
Another environmental factor that leads to alcoholism is enabling. Allowing recreational drinking or participating in recreational drinking with someone suffering from alcohol abuse enables the problem to persist.
Risk factors for alcohol abuse include:
- Availability of alcohol in the home
- Adolescent alcohol experimentation
- Unhealthy coping history
- The stress of peer pressure or recreational drinking
Preventative traits for alcohol abuse include:
- A habit of showing good self-control
- Involvement with peer monitoring or support
- Promoting anti-alcohol activities and an in-home environment
- Utilizing neighborhood resources and social groups
Binge drinking or excessive consumption of alcohol adds harmful effects to many other diseases such as colon cancer, cirrhosis, digestive tract cancer, liver cancer, and rectum cancer. The risk of these diseases is increased by genes that affect the amount and consistency of drinking.
Mental Health and Alcoholism
Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety share a direct link with alcohol or substance abuse. Mental illness increases the probability of alcohol abuse by 20% to 50%. Approximately 50% of individuals with severe mental issues are affected by alcohol or substance abuse. Self-medication for mental health issues includes alcohol abuse. In some cases, a dual diagnosis is required to determine if the alcohol abuse and mental health issues may amplify one another.
Tips to Avoid Alcoholism
For anyone who has a family history of alcoholism, it is best to limit drinking or abstain completely from alcohol. Identifying and controlling environmental factors and daily stressors will help to reduce alcohol abuse. Staying within the limitations of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women helps prevent alcohol abuse. Tips for preventing alcohol abuse include:
- Research dangers of alcohol abuse
- Explore the family history of alcohol use
- Engage in alcohol-free activities
- Promote abstinence from alcohol
- Keep track of daily or weekly alcohol consumption
Types of Treatment for Alcoholism
There is not a one-fits-all approach to treating alcoholism. Each individual has different genetic and environmental factors leading to personal alcohol abuse. For that reason, each individual requires a specialized recovery plan. Treatment may consist of both outpatient or inpatient treatment with specialty programs and therapists.
There are three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop relapse and reduce consumption. The three medications are disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. These medications are non-addictive, and naltrexone offers oral and injectable methods for versatile use. The medications are generally used in combination with supportive therapy and behavioral treatment to provide effective long-term recovery.
Commonly referred to as “talk therapy”, behavioral treatment consists of positive reinforcements and interventions. This type of therapy aims to teach healthy coping skills and relapse prevention. Behavioral treatment is administered by a licensed therapist who aims to improve the drinking behavior.
Mutual-support therapy focuses on peer support to help stop excessive drinking behaviors and prevent relapse. This type of therapy occurs in group sessions and is available in many locations and communities. There is also a growing online presence for mutual-support therapy. In addition to behavioral treatment and medications, mutual-support therapy helps make recovery less lonely and challenging.
Questions to Determine Alcoholism
To determine whether a drinking problem is present, there are certain questions to ask. The severity of the drinking problem is based on the responses to these types of questions. To properly diagnose the addiction, a healthcare professional may ask:
- Did you drink more or longer than you expected?
- Have you tried and failed to stop drinking after trying?
- Do you spend a lot of time recovering from the aftereffect of drinking?
- Have you wanted a drink and could not think of anything else to cope with?
- Has drinking caused any problems in your social settings or for your work-life balance?
- Have you stopped a hobby or physical activity to start drinking?
- Do you continue to drink even when it makes you feel depressed, angry, or anxious?
- Have you put yourself in danger (such as driving, working with machinery, or swimming) while drinking?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms, shakiness, trouble sleeping, or nausea when not drinking?
- Does drinking cause negative reactions from family or friends?
Find Treatment for Alcoholism
Finding the right treatment program for a family member suffering from alcohol abuse is challenging. However, completing it as soon as possible ensures a healthy recovery process. An excellent treatment facility must educate the family and the patient on everything related to alcohol abuse and use disorder.
Experts at Long Island Interventions are experienced in alcoholism and alcoholism recovery. Long Island Intervention helps families make the difficult decision to take the first step to alcohol recovery. Call Long Island Interventions today to help create a positive change in the life of a loved one suffering from alcoholism.