The genetics of alcoholism

November 21st, 2018

Alcohol is the #1 drug in the world. It’s consumed everywhere, from places of work to places of worship. But what can be causing alcoholism? And do your genes have something to do with it?


Genes are passed on by our parents, and some of those genes contain predisposition towards alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcoholism. But just how much those genes influence us is still up for debate. According to the study Genetics and Alcoholism alcoholism is a complex genetic disease, with variations in a large number of genes affecting risk. So, what puts some people more at risk than others?

Most of us can see that alcohol use disorder run in some families. For example, if you have a drinking problem and create a Family Map, you can probably identify multiple people across many generations that also struggle with alcohol. Further, among people who drink too much, those who are genetically predisposed have a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder.

However, even though people can have “the alcoholic gene,” it doesn’t mean that they will become alcohol dependent. Social and environmental factors play a huge role in becoming an addict.

In sum, it is true that our genetic structure determines human traits such as physical characteristics (eye and hair color) and behavioral characteristics, including aggression and depression. But the truth is that there are many factors that create the perfect environment for alcohol problems. And our genes do not influence us as much as we think.

Lee Weber/Addiction Blog