The Role of Genetics in Alcohol Addiction

March 20, 2012

Alcohol addiction and an individual’s propensity towards addiction has several contributing factors. One of the most controversial of them has been genetics. Is there an addiction gene? Can the disease of addiction be passed down genetically from one generation to the next? Can it skip a generation like other diseases? If you do have the so called addiction gene, is that pretty much a life sentence that you are going to develop a chemical dependency at some point in your life? These are all normal questions that we’re asked fairly regularly and it’s completely understandable. Drug and alcohol addiction is a terrible disease that seems to always leave us with tons of questions, and not always very many answers. Because this is an issue with a lot of interest and misinformation surrounding it, we wanted to take the time to shed some light on it.

As far as research and science goes currently, there is not a single addiction gene. According to Dr. Glen Hanson of the Genetics Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, “scientists will never find just one single addiction gene. Susceptibility to addiction is the result of many interacting genes.” While genetic factors weigh in to the risk, social and environmental factors also play a substantial role in determining how high of a risk someone is at in developing an alcohol addiction.

People seem to misunderstand what researchers mean when they say they are looking for so-called “addiction genes.” They are not looking for one gene specifically. Rather, they are looking for “biological differences that make someone more or less vulnerable to addiction.” When keeping this in mind, research has indicated that it may be more difficult for an individual with certain gene interactions to quit once they start drinking or using drugs. For others with those genes, they may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms making it that much more difficult for them to recover from their alcohol addiction. These things can impact how the disease and susceptibility will impact you, but are not in themselves a direct cause.

The most important thing to remember is that having any of these genes does not mean that you are absolutely going to develop an addiction. There is no such thing as being born an addict. These interacting genes are just things that increase your vulnerability to the disease. Environmental factors play far too big of a role in determining an individual’s propensity toward addiction for this ever to come down to a simple case of genetics. As most of us who read these blogs know too well, addiction is far too complex for the cause to ever be that simple. While a family history of alcohol addiction or drug abuse is certainly a red flag to be aware of and monitor, it does not mean that because you’re grandfather was an alcoholic that your children will be alcoholics as well.

Destination Hope is a premier drug abuse and alcohol addiction treatment center in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse issues. While genetics do play a role in determining the level of risk a person has of developing an addiction, they are one of many factors and cannot be looked at as the sole reason behind why someone does or does not have this disease. For more information or to talk to someone about getting help for your troubles with substance abuse, call us today at 1-877-380-9777. You’re not alone in this fight, call us so we can help.

Insurance