As a parent, you hope your children will inherit your favorable personality traits. But if substance use runs in your family, you likely worry about the probability of passing these dangerous tendencies on to future generations. Here’s what you need to know.
Is Addiction Genetic?
You may have come across references to an “alcoholism gene” in scientific literature or popular media. While it’s true genetics have some influence on the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder, it’s not as simple as inheriting a single gene. Based on our current understanding of addiction, many different genes play a role by expressing themselves in various ways. That’s why predicting your loved ones’ risk is so challenging.
Researchers have found about half the risk for developing addiction stems from genetic factors, which means genes alone don’t determine the trajectory. The other half comes from interactions between heredity and your environment. For example, a child who grows up surrounded by adults who drink to escape their problems may reach adulthood believing that alcohol is a beneficial form of stress relief.
Various genes can influence your likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder. Some increase susceptibility, while others may directly or indirectly decrease your vulnerability. For instance, many people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that modifies their alcohol metabolism rate, causing symptoms such as flushing, nausea and rapid heartbeat. These uncomfortable effects may deter them from drinking, thus making it less likely that they will have a problematic relationship with alcohol.
Genetics and Alcohol Treatment
A relatively new field called epigenetics explores how different factors influence gene expression. Recent research in this area shows promise for expanding our understanding of the complex connection between genetics and alcohol use disorder, including how genes may affect alcohol addiction treatment’s effectiveness.
One example is the drug naltrexone, which has helped some people drink less alcohol or quit the habit. Specific genetic variations may make one person respond positively to naltrexone, while someone who lacks these hereditary traits will need to find an alternative solution. A more comprehensive understanding of how genes influence treatment responses will enable health providers to tailor successful remedies for each person.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has been instrumental in identifying the genetic factors associated with alcohol addiction. Since 1989, they have funded the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism to identify specific genes that influence alcohol use disorder. They also support individual research projects and have an in-house research focus on gene-environment interactions. Ultimately, NIAAA aims to leverage this genetic understanding to develop and refine treatments and prevention strategies for AUD.
Women’s-Only Alcohol Abuse Treatment in Prescott, Arizona
Experiencing alcohol addiction is hard enough, but worrying your children will also struggle with this problem can cause you significant emotional anguish. Still, genetics is only part of the picture. Environmental factors, personal experiences and lifestyle choices all play a crucial role in the development of addiction.
If alcohol use disorder has taken over your life, seeking help from our professionals at Canyon Crossing is a critical first step on the journey to recovery. Our mission is to help women rediscover their freedom and happiness by walking through life with grace and integrity. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.