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If you have a family member who has suffered from alcohol addiction in the past, you might be wondering if you’re at risk of misusing alcohol too. Or, perhaps you’re a medical professional who wants to know about the hereditary link regarding alcohol addiction.

There is evidence that genetics is a contributing factor to alcohol addiction, but this is not always the case.

Here, we explore the science between genetics and alcoholism and reveal what you can do if you’re worried about your own risk.

What is Alcoholism?

When someone abuses alcohol and is unable to manage their drinking habits, this is known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. Without the right treatment and support, alcoholism can spiral and can lead to several serious health conditions as well as a harmful addiction.

The signs and symptoms of alcoholism aren’t always obvious but some of the most common signs include:

● Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
● Being unable to control your drinking habits
● Prioritising alcohol consumption
● Drinking excessive amounts regularly
● Spending lots of time and money to obtain alcohol
● Continuing to drink alcohol despite its negative impacts and pleas from loved ones

Those who suffer from alcoholism typically feel like they can’t function without it. This can lead to several health conditions as well as effects on career, relationships and family goals. Despite this, there are lots of treatment options out there and it is possible to overcome alcoholism. Those struggling with it, just need to get the right help fast.

Understanding Genetics and Alcohol Addiction

We’re all born with a genetic structure that determines our human traits including physical and behavioural characteristics. These are passed on to us from our parents, and we will pass these on to any children we have.

Scientists have discovered that among the behavioural traits that can be passed from parent to child is a predisposition to alcohol abuse. But that isn’t to say that everyone who inherits this predisposition is likely to suffer from alcohol addiction.

What’s more, while scientists might talk about an alcoholism gene, there isn’t a singular gene that can be passed down that is responsible for alcohol abuse. Instead, there are hundreds of genes in a DNA that could increase the risk of someone having addictive personality traits. Identifying these genes is easier said than done as scientists believe it’s a combination of genes that work together that has an impact on alcoholism.

As mentioned, behavioural genes can also be passed down and these could increase the risk of addictive behaviours. This includes those with a family history of mental illness and studies show that mental health can run in families and people with conditions like depression often have a higher risk of addiction and substance use.

It is important to remember that just because you have a family history of addiction however, it doesn’t mean that you will also experience substance abuse. Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism as well as your risk factor, and taking steps to be a responsible drinker, can help to prevent any potential issues though.

The Role of Environment in Alcoholism

Individuals can turn to alcohol for several different reasons – whether it’s work stresses, family dynamics or even social pressure. What’s more, scientists have found that our inherited behaviours can also interact with these environmental factors and make some people more prone to substance abuse.

For example, some people might be more prone to stress and anxiety and therefore turn to alcohol to self-medicate. What’s more, some scientists even believe that those with a high genetic risk of alcoholism must be driven by an external factor first. This isn’t always the case though. Others, without a genetic risk factor, could have experienced a traumatic event and are using alcohol to help them to forget.

Identifying Genetic Risk Factors for Alcoholism

There are hundreds of genes, and combinations of genes, that can increase the risk of someone developing alcoholism and addiction. However, scientists have discovered two specific genes that relate to alcohol metabolism. More specifically, those with the genes ADH1B and ALDH2 have been found to struggle to digest alcohol the most meaning these individuals may be at a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorders.

As well as this, and environmental factors, a family history of alcoholism can also increase the likelihood of someone developing an alcohol use disorder.

Other risk factors include:

● A challenging upbringing around drugs, alcohol and aggression
● Poverty
● Availability of substances
● A lack of supervision
● Parental mental health illnesses

It is important to remember that these risk factors don’t necessarily mean that someone will develop an alcohol disorder but they can increase the chance of doing so.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a serious condition that has a huge impact on overall physical and mental health as well as careers, finances and relationships. However, there is support out there and with the right treatment for alcohol addiction, you can get back onto the right path. That’s exactly what the team at Step 1 Recovery have been helping individuals to do for many years.

Through a combination of personalised treatment options including counselling, talking therapy and creative therapy, in group and one-to-one sessions, as well as a medically-assisted alcohol detox, our team of experts can help you to combat symptoms of alcoholism and deal with any emotional triggers and dependencies. Not just that but you’ll receive wellbeing and nutrition advice to help you to carve out new behaviours and habits.

Our team will also support you with aftercare and relapse prevention advice and you’ll be provided with a designated point of contact to help you to stay resilient after rehab. Rehab isn’t the only choice for alcoholism treatment though. There are plenty of community initiatives and local support groups. This includes nationwide Alcoholics Anonymous which offers regular meetings for those who are on the recovery journey. If you want to know more information about groups near you, simply get in touch with our team or your registered GP.

Whether you have any questions about alcoholism, are worried about yourself or a loved one’s alcohol use, or just want to know whether you could be at risk of developing a disorder, the team at Step 1 are always here. Get in touch via phone, email or message today on +44 (0) 800 012 6006.

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