Alcoholism and its genetic component has yet to be determined, it is still under study by the Medical and Psychiatric societies. Is the child of an alcoholic more likely to become an alcoholic, then the child of a non-alcoholic parent? It does seem to have a genetic component, but how much is not really known. “An estimated 20-25% of sons and brothers of alcoholics become alcoholics,” as stated from the UCSF Family Alcoholism Study and “5% of daughters and sisters of alcoholics become alcoholics.” So one may be wondering if they will become an alcoholic just because they have a familial history of alcoholism, the answer is no; as any addictive behavior is a choice. Now, that being said there is a definite correlation between having a history of alcoholism in your family; and whether you will become an alcoholic, or not. In this article we will discuss both sides and let you decide, nature versus nurture; it’s the same old argument, what came first the chicken or the egg? We will also discuss alcoholism prevention methods.
Genetically there does seem to be a predisposition for alcoholism to run in families. Alcohol is a depressant and it has been found that only 20% of the population can become dependent on alcohol. It is a question of tolerance, some individuals are more tolerant to alcohol then others, and as a result of this tolerance level they have to have increasing amounts to acquire the desired effect of the drug. Yes alcohol is a drug, and it is this very same reason that some individuals become addicted to other drugs. The higher tolerance the individual has the more likely they are to become addicted, and by consequence they also have more difficulty defeating their demon.
This same UCSF study found, “there are on the other hand other studies that have found definite links between chromosomes 1 and 7, and a weak linkage to chromosome 2.” So possibly there is a link, but how much is not definitely known. Scientists are also finding a weaker linkage on chromosome 4, and 13, and the Dopamine 2 receptor cells in the brain. Again since the study of chromosomal science and the brain; like the rest of medicine is not an exact science we may never know if chromosomal abnormalities and alcoholism have a direct link, or not. The low numbers of direct familial links makes this author favor the nurture side of the argument.
Children growing up in abusive households; whether alcohol, drug, physical, or sexual, tend to learn to cope with things in their environment the same way their parents do. If a child observes his/her parent come home from a bad day at the office; and reach for the liquor cabinet as they fuss and fume over their day, they will typically learn to cope with stressors the same way they saw the parent cope. According to the article, ‘parents, but the peers, and societal norms, as well.
So if you are the child of an alcoholic what should you do to avoid following in your alcoholic parent’s footsteps? According to the same article on familial history one should, Drink only moderately as an adult; for women this is listed as one drink per day, and men as two per day. If one already has an existing familial history of alcoholism even moderate drinking could lead to problems, so this individual is encouraged to abstain from even moderate drinking; as it is a double-edged sword for these individuals. Finally discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional, especially if you have already begun to drink. If you have a Pastor, or other type of councilor they can also help through counseling; or helping you locate the proper group that can assist you with your concerns. Remember though you life decisions are always under your control, just because you come from abuse does not mean you have to become an abuser, as this author has already proved.