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Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a global issue affecting millions. But what causes this condition? Is alcoholism genetic, or a result of environmental influences? This has sparked extensive research and discussion among scientists, doctors, and others. Figuring out its roots could help us prevent and treat alcoholism more effectively. Keep reading to learn some of the genetic components of alcoholism, how it affects the brain, and what current research says about this.

Alcoholism in Numbers

In 2022, there were about 29.5 million Americans aged over 12 struggling with AUD, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Additionally, from 2020-2021 there were more than 178,000 deaths linked to alcohol-related causes in the United States.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

If you have ever had an alcoholic family member, then you might have wondered if their condition could be passed down through genes to yourself. It has been found that genetics play a significant role in determining who is susceptible to AUD. Studies show that kids with alcoholic parents are four times more likely to develop the disorder themselves. It’s important to note that it’s not only about genes; environmental factors also significantly contribute towards this risk.

There have been various genes identified that can affect one’s chances of becoming an alcoholic. For instance, ADH1B and ALDH2 are involved in alcohol metabolism, so different forms of these genes can make people process alcohol differently. Some versions lead to uncomfortable symptoms when drinking alcohol, which can help reduce heavy drinking. Meanwhile, others may increase tolerance, potentially leading to higher consumption and a greater risk of addiction.

Recent advances within genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified multiple genetic loci associated with increased risk for developing AUD. Although there is no such thing as a single ‘alcoholism gene,’ these investigations suggest that vulnerability may be influenced by several different genes working together.

How Does Alcoholism Affect the Brain?

Alcohol impacts different brain signals. This process increases dopamine release in the brain’s reward pathways, making us crave more drinks.

Persistent drinking alters brain structure as well as its functions over time:

  • Tolerance: The longer somebody drinks, the brain becomes used to having alcohol around, which means that person now needs higher amounts for the same effect.
  • Withdrawal: When the brain and body get used to the presence of alcohol, an individual will experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit drinking.
  • Cognitive decline: Executive functions like memory and decision-making can become impaired due to chronic alcohol consumption.

Alcohol abuse over many years can shrink gray matter in certain areas of the brain; such structural alterations often accompany various cognitive and emotional deficits.

Strategies for Prevention and Treatment

Understanding alcoholism as a genetic disease has led to significant advances in treatment. Genetic testing, called pharmacogenetics, can help identify a more effective treatment plan by examining how an individual’s genetic makeup affects their response to medications.

The Berman Center’s Approach to Care

The Berman Center is an outpatient mental health services provider offering addiction treatment in Atlanta.

Alcoholism is a complex disease, and we recognize this by offering personalized treatment options that cater specifically to each client with our alcohol rehab program. With licensed therapists, physicians, nurses, trainers, and spiritual leaders on staff, our team will work with you to design a comprehensive care program based on your needs alone.

  • We treat you as an individual: We tailor everything according to where you are at.
  • Our therapists have experience: They are highly trained and care deeply about every person who comes through our doors.
  • Community feeling: Group therapy sessions allow for bonding between peers who understand exactly what it’s like living with addiction or being affected by someone else’s substance abuse problem.
  • We understand mental health: Other facilities may only focus on one aspect of dual diagnosis treatment, but not us—we address both simultaneously here at The Berman Center so you can receive comprehensive care.

Take That First Step Today

The question “Is alcoholism genetic?” must be answered within the context of understanding environmental influences working hand in hand with inherited tendencies.

It is essential to realize that although gene expression may predispose individuals toward developing AUD (alcohol use disorders), these conditions will not occur unless certain other factors come into play as well. Contact The Berman Center now – take that first step towards recovery from alcohol use disorders.

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