Is alcoholism genetic? Is it accurate to say that because your father/mother, grandparents were “alcoholics” that is the reason WHY you have a drinking problem? Not necessarily – but then again, I don’t know a single person that drinks too much that can say that nobody in their family has had a drinking problem.
What we know about genetics and personality traits, including substance abuse – is very limited. Basically because it’s nearly impossible to do the typical scientific studies because it involves a LIVING person’s brain and keeping that person alive! Adding to that issue is the complexity of alcoholism.
Alcohol consumption has been around for as long as recorded history. And since alcohol has such a compound mechanism of action, acting on MANY different areas of the brain and physiology, it is nearly impossible to link one set of genes (or even a group of genes) to alcohol metabolism or abuse. It’s not like just simply identifying a gene for male-pattern baldness or blue eyes. Additionally, alcoholism is a multi-faceted issue involving learned behavior, habits, and emotional regulation from our role models (parents and family), as well as the biochemical or physiological makeup of our brains and bodies.
BUT, regardless of whether or not scientists can actually link a set of genes to addiction, the bottom line is that if YOUR personality or biochemistry causes you to be vulnerable to overindulging in alcohol, then you have to be mindful of that and learn some skills for staying in control:
- Abstinence may be the easiest – but choose abstinence from a position of power – not “powerlessness.” Know that there is nothing “wrong” with you, but rather you prefer to abstain from alcohol because it helps you to feel healthier and more in-control.
- Whether you are choosing abstinence or attempting to moderate your drinking, you must begin to address the learned behaviors such as how you deal with emotions by learning healthy emotion regulation skills. (See Controlling Your Emotions to Control Your Drinking )
- Change the stimulus / response to drink by creating NEW habits!
- Learn how to feel good and change your brain chemistry naturally (Watch this Video)
- Get regular exercise – for your mind AND your body
- Eat well
- Get plenty of sleep and avoid stimulants that can cause anxiety or sleeplessness.
- If necessary, change your mindset and your environment.