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Inheriting Alcohol Addiction

Dec 1st, 2011 | By Dr. Jeffrey Huttman Ph.D. | Category: Addiction Treatment, Alcohol Treatment Rehab

If you are among the millions of people in this country who have a parent, grandparent, or other close relative with alcoholism, you may have wondered what your family’s history of alcoholism means for you. Are problems with alcohol a part of your future? Is your risk for becoming an alcoholic greater than for people who do not have a family history of alcoholism? If so, what can you do to lower your risk?

Many scientific studies, including research conducted among twins and children of alcoholics, have shown that genetic factors influence alcoholism. This research shows that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems. Children of alcoholics also have a higher risk for many other behavioral and emotional problems.

But alcoholism is not only determined by the genes you inherit from your parents. In fact, more than one half of all children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic.

Genes are not the only things children inherit from their parents. The way parents treat each other and their children has an influence on children as they grow up. These aspects of family life also affect the risk for alcoholism. Researchers believe that a person’s risk increases if they are in a family with the following difficulties:

- An alcoholic parent that is depressed or has other psychological problems.
- Both parents abuse alcohol and other drugs.
- The parents’ alcohol abuse is severe.
- Conflicts that lead to aggression and violence in the family.

The good news is that many children of alcoholics from even the most troubled families do not develop drinking problems. Just as a family history of alcoholism does not guarantee that you will become an alcoholic, neither does growing up in a very troubled household with alcoholic parents. The risk is higher but it does not have to happen.

If you are worried that your family’s history of alcohol problems or your troubled family life puts you at risk for becoming alcoholic, here is some advice to help you:

People with a family history of alcoholism have a higher risk for becoming dependent on alcohol and should moderate drinking carefully. Maintaining moderate drinking habits may be harder for them than for people without a family history of drinking problems. Once drinking develops from moderate to heavy, the risks of social and medical problems increase greatly.

Discuss your concerns with health care professional; they can recommend groups or organizations that could help you avoid alcohol problems.

One of the first challenges in getting help for yourself or a loved one, is knowing where to start. We can help with a free assessment and someone to talk with right now.

Tags: alcohol addiction, alcoholism

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