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Are Addiction and Alcoholism Hereditary?

So – is alcoholism hereditary or not? What about drug addiction?

The general school of thought today is that alcoholism and addiction is hereditary, in that children of alcoholics and drug addicts are genetically predispositioned towards alcoholism and addiction themselves, with statistics showing that children of alcoholics and drug addicts are four times more likely to go down that road themselves.

However being genetically predispositioned towards an illness like addiction only explains half the story because as an example, if you look at the case of our family, I went down the addiction route, one of my sister’s not at all, and another of my sister’s could be regarded as borderline at times because of her drinking habits.

And I think one of the key reasons why children of alcoholics are more inclined towards alcoholism and addiction themselves is the environment that you’re brought up in. Because by having an alcoholic parent you observe their behaviour - and remember a large part of what kids learn is done subconsciously through modelling the behaviour of parents and adults.

The other part to the environment equation is the home environment you’re brought up, which is likely to be filled with angst, tension, sadness, anger and all sorts of emotions that are anything but loving and harmonious – which is not the kind of environment you want to be striving for to bring your children up in.

The massive rows between my parents when I was young will stay with me forever - the images of my drunk mother lying passed out on the couch or on the bed, the smell of cheap wine on her breath, that look she used to get when she’d had a drink - are things I'll never forget.

These are things that stay with you forever and have a massive influence especially when growing up. So as a kid being exposed to that, you live with a constant underlying stress and tension, which can manifest in all sorts of ways – becoming withdrawn and having difficulty in trusting others, struggling to cope at school, anxiety, depression, rebellion. And those are things I’ve personally all gone through – and as I’ve gotten older now learned how to cope with, but I doubt whether I’ll ever overcome those things for good.

And naturally if you’re trying to deal with all these emotions and when your self-worth is also effected, you often sub-consciously look for an outlet in alcohol and drugs as well – which means the vicious cycle continues ...

So if you’re wondering – is alcoholism hereditary? From a purely genetic perspective, there is growing evidence to suggest that yes there is. Make sure you read the Alcoholism and Genetics page to learn more on that and what the scientific community says on the matter.

But the problem is a lot more complex than that because even though we all know that alcoholism and addiction does run in families through many generations - I think the reasons I’ve given above play as large a part as genetics in the Causes of Alcoholism. In other words - environmental factors are also huge contributors.

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So even though we all have a choice, we are largely products of our environment, and many of us are significantly shaped by the environment of our early years. And if that involves being brought up in and exposed to an alcoholic environment, the long-term effects can be devastating.

Related subjects to the alcoholism hereditary perspective that you may also find of interest - are getting a proper Definition of Alcoholism and considering the whole Alcoholism as a Disease argument.

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