There is no question that alcoholism and alcohol-related problems affect generations within a family. No, this does not necessarily mean that alcoholism or alcohol-related problems will plague an individual just because his or her parent has the gene. However, there are characteristics that can increase the likelihood of an individual becoming a statistic of alcoholism-related concerns in this scenario.
A predisposition to alcoholism may be contributed by a number of factors including genetic makeup and social or environmental aspects. As yet, there has not been a breakthrough in the discovery of a particular alcoholic gene but there have been significant findings in the relationship between some inherited genes that are known to be present in a vast number of alcoholics. For instance, 5-HTT (the serotonin transporter gene), the gene found in depression sufferers is one example of an inherited gene shared by many alcoholics. However, the presence of this gene does not necessarily doom a person to depression. Like alcoholism, social and environmental factors are also main factors in the individual’s condition. Another genetically inherited characteristic that has a relationship to alcoholism is a variation in our liver enzymes that controls the rate that our liver processes alcohol.
Though we typically learn our social skills from within our families at birth, environmental factors that reflect a tendency towards alcoholism do not always fall squarely on the family’s shoulders. Indeed, social conditioning is learned from all that we are exposed to, and visual repetitive learning is a valuable and effective teaching tool. Unfortunately, it is not so selective as to be able to dismiss the negative influence also. In other words, habitual behavior and life choices remain the responsibility of an individual. Even if your mother was an alcoholic, and the family drank to excess at home and socially, this still does not absolve an individual of responsibility from the choices they make for themselves.
Despite its advances in the field, science is still not finished with alcoholism. Medical communities are diligently pressing on with the hope that one day this disease that destroys mankind from the inside out and devastates entire families and the loved ones of sufferers may be completely understood. As for now, we do know that genetics contribute in some way to the condition of alcoholism, and that the presence of the disease is generated from complex factors including genetic and social environment. Needless to say, there is still much to be learned.
In the meantime, we should continue to be grateful for the help and support available for those who are ready to get help.