Predisposition To Alcoholism: What’s In Your Genes?

Certainly the popular notion that alcoholism may be inherited from our parents has gained momentum in recent times. This is not a new school of thought by any means, but it has gained creditability as a result of detailed investigations that have been carried out in the name of science these past decades. There is no question that typically a pattern emerges where a tendency to alcoholism and alcohol related problems do affect siblings and generations within a family. By no means does this conclusively indicate that alcoholism or alcohol related problems will plague you because you inherited the gene from a parent.

On the other hand, there are many genetically inherited characteristics that have been proven to impact on the likelihood of an individual becoming a statistic of alcoholism related concerns. It is safley surmised that the genetic predisposition toward alcoholism may be a combination of social factors and genetic predisposition. As yet, there has not been a breakthrough in the discovery of a particular alcoholic gene but there have been significant findings in the relationship between some inherited genes that are known to be present in a vast number of alcoholics studied. The gene found in those suffering from depression is 5-HTT (the serotonin transporter gene), is but one example of a commonly inherited gene shared by a large number of alcoholics. The presence of this gene also does not doom a person to depression. Like alcoholism, social and environmental factors are very evident in the reflection of the condition upon an individual.

Another genetically inherited characteristic that has a relationship to alcoholism is a variation in our liver enzymes that controls the rate that our liver processes alcohol. Alcoholism is considered to be a complex disease as is diabetes, meaning that genetic makeup alone does not automatically lead to alcoholism, social environmental influences contribute to the diseases presence.

We typically learn our social skills from within our families from birth. It is here that we learn right from wrong and acceptable social behavior. If a family get together is learned from our childhood conditioning as being an event that alcohol is consumed for the merriment of all this becomes imprinted in our minds as the nature of social interaction. The same principle applies to all other occasions and daily events. Certainly social conditioning is learned from all that we are exposed to, not just our immediate family. Indeed, visual repetitive learning is a valuable and effective teaching tool; unfortunately, it is not so selective as to be able to dismiss the negative influence also.

Environmental factors that often reflect a tendency toward alcoholism do not fall squarely in the home of a family. Life choices, actions and behaviors engaged in, continue to be the responsibilty of the individual. If your mother was an alcoholic, and the family drank to excess at home and socially, this does not absolve an individual of responsibility from the choices they make for themselves.

Science continues to explore the complexities of alcoholism. Certainly medical communities are diligently pressing on with the hope that one day this disease that destroys mankind from the inside out and devastates entire families and the loved ones of sufferers may one day be completely understood. We understand that while genetics contributes to the disease of alcoholism, there are complex factors at work which include social environment; much is yet to be learned. Meanwhile, it is a blessing that support and help is available for those who choose to avail themselves of it.