Can alcoholism be inherited from your father and mother, or your grandparents or even more distant relatives? The answer to that question is most certainly “yes”.
There is substantial evidence that suggests that there is a significant inherited biological factor involved in the development of alcoholism. Studies of shown that children of alcoholics are more than four times as likely to become alcoholics themselves. Facts like that are too convincing to be brushed off as coincidence.
Although it hasn’t been discovered yet, there is almost definitively a gene or genes which predispose people to a vulnerability to the disease. Researchers are continuing to search for these markers, and with the mapping of the human genome completed less than a decade ago, I am confident we will eventually uncover the genetic markers for alcoholism.
Is alcoholism caused more by nature or nurture?
A predisposition to alcohol abuse may certainly be contributed to by environmental factors such as being exposed to friends or family members who are alcoholics. A child who observes his adoptive parents or caretakers abuse alcohol could certainly get that idea from them and become an alcoholic them self.
The evidence suggests, however, that the genetic or inherited factor is a much more weighty factor in determining whether a specific person will become an alcoholic. Studies have shown that brothers and sisters who were raised in separate adoptive families are much more likely to become alcoholics if their own biological parents were alcoholic rather than if there adoptive parents were alcoholics. There is a much higher correlation for the former than the latter, which is pretty strong evidence that there is an inherited gene involved.
Alcohol is processed differently in different people, suggesting an inherited trait
have you noticed that some people love to smoke tobacco cigarettes from the first time they take their first toke, while other smoke tobacco and it has little to no effect or just gives them a headache? There is a real difference in the way tobacco is processed in the brain in different people.
The same is true of alcohol in that some people take a sip of alcohol and the way that it affects their brain and the way that it makes them feel is almost irresistible. But other people are not predisposed to this, and when they drink alcohol it doesn’t have the same effect for them and they simply shrug it off.
This is almost certainly due to inherited biological factors that make some people more predisposed to abuse certain illicit substances, just like some people are more predisposed to you struggle with obesity, or predisposed to be vulnerable to certain kinds of cancers.
There is an undeniable genetically inherited factor to alcoholism and addiction in general. Scientists may not have pinpointed the exact genetic location of these predispositions, but it is almost impossible to deny that they exist based on the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that we have available to us.
So yes, everybody has a choice whether or not to drink and therefore whether or not to become an alcoholic. But some people inherit a strong predisposition to the disease that puts them at much greater risk than the general population.
If you come from a family that has a history of alcoholism, you are advised to steer clear of the “liquid poison” because you are playing with fire, so to speak. You may want to be just like everyone else and have just one drink, but the way those chemicals interact in your brain are not the same way that they interact with everyone else’s.