Tag Archives: genetics

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Alcohol use disorder (AUD)—commonly referred to as “alcoholism”—is a type of substance use disorder (SUD) that involves the uncontrollable consumption of alcohol. 

Individuals who suffer from alcoholism may not be able to stop themselves from drinking too much, and often have physical or mental dependence on alcohol. This makes it so that if they stop drinking alcohol or drink less than usual, they experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Alcoholism, unfortunately, is a relatively common substance use disorder. Because of this, researchers have been able to identify many of the factors that put individuals at particular risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. 

A person’s family history, mental health, age, and gender can all be factors. While alcohol dependency is most often found in people with predisposed risk factors, the reality is that anyone can be affected.

Family History

Studies have shown that one of the most prevalent risk factors for an AUD is a person’s family history—specifically their genetics. There seem to be some types of genes that are present in certain families that are absent in others that put individuals at particular risk of developing alcoholism. 

The specific types of genetics that cause this risk are yet unknown, but scientists estimate that they can increase someone’s risk of developing alcoholism by four times or more. This in no way indicates that a person is guaranteed to develop an alcohol use disorder just because members of their family also suffer from it. 

Those without a family history of alcoholism still have the potential to develop a problem with alcohol, but those with a history may need to exercise more caution when consuming alcohol regularly.

Studies have shown that one of the most prevalent factors that is a risk factor for alcoholism is a person's family history--specifically their genetics.

Psychiatric Disorders

A person’s mental health and specific psychiatric disorders can also put them at greater risk for alcoholism. However, alcoholism can also lead to the development of mental health issues, which further complicates the disorder. 

In many scenarios, individuals who suffer from alcoholism may be at risk for developing psychiatric disorders, or could already be dealing with them. While it is difficult to pinpoint exact causes, researchers have identified a handful of mental disorders that appear to put individuals at higher risk of alcoholism. 

Many types of mental health issues can contribute to alcoholism, but some may be more impactful than others. Again, it’s important to remember that none of these disorders are guarantees of developing alcoholism, only that they might increase one’s risk.

Mood disorders, like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD, can be among the more prevalent when it comes to alcoholism risk. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, or panic might lead individuals to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, making them more likely to develop a dependence on the substance.

Mood disorders and anxiety disorders can put an individual at higher risk for alcoholism.

Age and Sex

An individual’s age and their assigned sex at birth may also impact alcoholism. Age, however, is the more notable of the two factors. 

Researchers have found that people are more likely to develop life long alcoholism at earlier ages. Those who first consume alcohol at ages 14 or younger are significantly more likely to develop an alcohol problem than those who don’t drink until 20 or older. 

Because young people have still-developing bodies, drinking alcohol can cause serious problems later on. While not all young people who drink alcohol at early ages will develop an alcohol use disorder, the less responsibly it is consumed, the higher the chances become.

Biological sex can also influence how alcohol affects a person. While this characteristic doesn’t necessarily put someone at higher risk of developing an AUD, studies have shown how alcoholism affects men differently compared to women. 

Most notably, men tend to misuse alcohol at a younger age than women. This puts them at a higher risk for developing alcoholic behaviors and dependencies, since the body gets used to having the substance during development. 

Additionally, among those who did seek treatment for alcoholism, women tended to progress with treatment more quickly than men. The exact cause for this is unknown, but it may be due to societal impacts of alcoholism on women, or small differences between the effect of alcohol on women compared to men.

Overall, a person’s sex has significantly less impact than their age, mental health, and familial history when it comes to alcohol abuse.

Men who misuse alcohol tend to start at earlier ages than women who do so.

Signs of Alcoholism

Recognizing the signs and potential risks of an AUD in friends, loved ones, and oneself can result in life-changing steps to prevent addiction. Alcoholism is a serious disorder, and it can have a massive impact on a person’s well-being, career, and family. 

It is important to remember, however, that these risks do not make addiction inevitable. Anyone could be at risk of developing alcoholism. Whether someone is “high-” or “low-risk” for an alcohol use disorder, there is hope for recovery. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or another substance use disorder, contact us today.

Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Is Alcoholism a Disease and can it be a Genetic Predisposition?

Language is, of course, one of the most important ways that humans communicate. The words we use are meaningful, especially so when it comes to serious issues like addiction.

Over time, language shifts to fit our needs and our understanding of the world around us. With regard to addiction, much of the language has changed from someone being an addict to someone dealing with or suffering from addiction. This is not without reason.

The more we understand, it’s apparent that addiction is about more than just personal choices or character defects. Many people wonder, “Is alcoholism a disease?” In modern times, there is the disease theory of alcoholism which theorizes that alcoholism, and other addictions, are a disease of the brain. Some experts disagree with this, though they concede it may still of course have something to do with genetics.

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a government resource, they state, “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.”*

Other diseases require constant, life-long treatment and someone might see relapse after some time without symptoms. Unfortunately, many people often take addiction relapse as a sign that they themselves or treatment has failed. However, as NIDA states, “This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”*

People have different genetics, of course, and how their genes affect their susceptibility to addiction will differ. Mental health is also a big part of genes and can play a part of alcoholism for many people.

At Reflections, we take this into account when forming a treatment plan as well as a relapse prevention plan. With the prevalence that alcohol has in society, it is not an easy thing to avoid.

Genetically Predisposed

For various illnesses, diseases, and even character traits, you’ll often hear someone say, “It runs in the family.” There are numerous causes; genetic factors are part of it, as well as societal and historical factors.

Trauma, a common element in addiction, is something that can impact multiple generations. Each generation might not go through the same exact trauma.

However, it can still affect the next generation and play a part in their issues. Per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk of AUD [Alcohol use disorder].”*

Genetic predisposition is a factor in many people’s struggle with alcohol–but, it is not the only factor. 

At Reflections, we take a look into people’s life up until they have come to us for treatment. We do so through laboratory testing, to understand their genetic history, as well as understanding their family history.

This gives us an idea of the social factors that also play a part in contributing to their addiction. If we understand as many factors as possible, we can provide a more thorough and effective treatment.

Dr. Lisa Parsons, our Medical Director, is interested in understanding biochemical imbalances. She works to identify any vulnerabilities in someone’s DNA that make them prone to addiction. This allows her to develop the best treatment for each client.

Alcohol and Mental Health

According to NIAAA, It is possible for an AUD to coincide with, add to, cause, or be caused in part by, mental health disorders.*

Mental illness does not mean someone will inevitably have an AUD, but it is possible to be a factor behind AUD. It is possible for mental health disorders to be passed through genetic and environmental circumstances.

It’s important that treatment providers distinguish the various types of mental health disorders, how they are caused, and what is possibly making them worse. NIAAA notes that mental health is affected differently based on whether someone is currently drinking, intoxicated, going through withdrawal, or sober.*

Depending on severity and length of use, it may take longer for someone to recover physically and mentally. Co-occurring disorders develop frequently with addiction. When this happens, it’s essential to treat each disorder fully to give patients the best chance at recovery.

According to NIAAA, it’s also possible for someone to have depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue without it being severe enough to be classified as a “disorder”.

If this is the case for anyone, they should not feel that their mental health issues are not as bad and therefore do not deserve the same care. We will work with each patient to treat any issues and to improve their mental health, regardless of classification.

It’s necessary to remember that mental health is not a final achievement to reach. It’s something to work on continually. That shouldn’t discourage anyone; even people with seemingly few mental health problems need to put in effort and take care of themselves.

Recovery

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Worldwide, 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol…” This includes health problems from drinking as well as accidents.

It’s possible victims of harmful use may not have consumed any alcohol. The best time to seek help is now. Everyone should want to prevent all deaths and any harmful actions that happen as a result of alcohol use.

Alcohol use does not have to result in death to destroy lives. It’s not easy to acknowledge that you, or even a loved one, has a problem with alcohol. Once again though, now is the best time to do that.

Don’t let alcohol steal anything else from you or your loved one. Call us today.

*Resources:
Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment – NIDA
Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder – NIAAA
Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders – NIAAA