Genetic Causes Of Alcoholism

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Alcoholism and the nurture-vs.-nature debate have been ever intertwined. Are environmental factors a primary cause, or does DNA play a deciding role? In fact, studies conducted over the past few decades suggest a combination of genetics and environment may be to blame for heightened alcoholism risks.

Inherited Alcohol Tendencies

Genetic Causes Of AlcoholismAccording to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children of alcoholics are 4X more likely to abuse alcohol than those born to non-alcoholics. However, the role of genetics appears unclear when compared to the influence of a surrounding environment.


The contrast between fraternal twins who have been adopted and raised in separate environments verses identical twins is often utilized in genetic studies. A study reported in the Journal of Addictive Diseases recently included 170 same-gender pairs of twins where at least one individual had sought treatment for alcohol addiction. Researchers were able to find a lower rate of alcohol dependency in fraternal twins than identical twins.

Significance Of Addiction

The discovery of genetic markers significant to a predisposition for alcoholism would be beneficial for a number of reasons. If an individual displays genetic markers that make them more prone to alcohol addiction, they may be better equipped to avoid the pitfalls of alcoholism. Additionally, the identification of markers would help expand the current understanding of addiction, while improving treatment options.

Psychological Factors

In ancient times, Greeks believed in a correlation between “moody women” and breast cancer. Over time, an array of evidence has supported the relationship between stress and a compromised immune system. According to researchers, the effects of a compromised immune system and stress can make the body crave addictive chemicals (such as drugs or alcohol) as a coping tool. As such, it is not uncommon for Type A personalities to engage in addictive behaviors.

Genetic Dispositions

According to a recent study conducted by the UCSF Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, the chemistry of individuals who exhibit addictive behaviors are more likely to contain certain chromosomes. The report concluded that roughly 60% of alcoholism is due to genetic factors.

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