Alcoholism is a devastating disease that affects millions of Americans. It has been called one of the country’s leading health challenges. While there is no known cure, there are treatment options available that can help reduce cravings and improve a person’s quality of life.
The only proven way to treat alcohol addiction is with proven treatment programs. But what if the disease is genetic? Is there a genetic component to alcoholism? Or is it more a result of environment, upbringing, and other factors?
The answer is a little bit of both. While it is true that some people are more likely to become addicted to alcohol than others, not everyone who has a parent with an addiction problem is going to become an alcoholic. The following article explores this debate and looks at the evidence behind it.
What is Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a disease that causes compulsive consumption of alcohol. It is characterized by a strong desire to drink, a setting of a “limit” on alcohol consumption, and a refusal to drink alcohol even when a person is “hungry” for it.
The DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s guide to diagnosing mental disorders, defines alcohol dependence as a clinical diagnosis.
Some people who meet the criteria for alcohol dependence may not necessarily have a drinking problem. They may be able to drink alcohol in moderation without becoming addicted. The DSM-5 also includes a diagnosis of alcohol abuse. This is a less strict diagnosis than alcohol dependence. People who meet the criteria for alcohol abuse are not necessarily alcoholics. They just have a drinking problem that affects their lives.
Is Alcoholism Genetic?
Studies of identical twins, who share all their genes, have shown that only about 50% of the variation in alcohol dependence is genetic. The other 50% is due to factors such as environment and upbringing.
Since identical twins only have the same set of genes, this suggests that the inherited factors that contribute to alcohol dependence are complex. They are likely to be influenced by both inherited and environmental factors.
Most studies of the genetics of alcohol dependence have looked at a specific gene called the serotonin transporter gene. These have found that a variant of this gene is consistently related to an increased risk of alcohol dependence.
What are the Genetics of Alcoholism?
The serotonin transporter gene: The serotonin transporter gene helps to regulate the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the body. People with a variation in this gene may have lower levels of serotonin in their bodies. Lower levels of serotonin are associated with an increased risk of alcohol dependence.
The dopamine transporter gene: People with a low level of dopamine in their bodies are more likely to become addicted to drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The dopamine transporter gene is related to a low risk of alcohol dependence.
The dopamine genes: Many people with a family history of alcoholism also have a low level of dopamine in their bodies. This is especially true of people who are at high risk of developing alcoholism.
The Effects of Alcoholism
Alcohol dependence can cause a number of health problems, such as physical dependence on alcohol, depression, heart disease, liver disease, and certain cancers.
Additionally, long-term alcohol dependence is linked to developmental damage in childhood and adolescence, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Is Alcoholism an Illness?
The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism all consider alcoholism to be an illness. Other authorities, however, such as the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers, believe that it is a behavioral or mental health problem rather than a medical condition.
The argument for considering alcoholism an illness revolves around the fact that there is no known cure for the disease. Under the rubric of “medical illnesses,” the federal government provides special funding for research into diseases like cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. But alcoholism does not fit neatly into a medical framework. Unlike other diseases, it does not have a root cause. People can become addicted to alcohol for many different reasons.
Oasis Recovery Center is Here For You
Alcoholism is a devastating disease that affects millions of Americans. It has been called one of the country’s leading health challenges. While there is no known cure, there are treatment options available that can help reduce cravings and improve a person’s quality of life. The only proven way to treat alcohol addiction is with proven treatment programs.
If you feel that you or a loved one may be struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. Substance abuse and addiction can affect anyone. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction, help is available! We encourage you to reach out to the professionals at Oasis Recovery to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and mental health services.
Oasis Recovery was founded from firsthand experience of addiction and recovery, with a mission of providing a space where people can heal from addiction in a compassionate, creative, open-minded, and heart-centered environment. We believe recovery is always possible. Our experts work with you to design a treatment plan that fits your needs. Common treatment programs include:
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- Full-time Addiction Treatment on campus
- Aftercare Services
Contact us today for more information about how our programs and services can help you get your life back on track. You no longer have to struggle with addiction on your own. We are here to help.