Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most pervasive and common forms of addiction in the U.S., with more than one in 10 American adults experiencing it annually.
Over recent decades, there has been an increasing understanding that addiction is a chronic disease and not a moral failing. This has led to more research into how addiction forms.
One increasingly relevant theory is that DNA plays a role in who may be predisposed to AUD or drug addiction.
How Do Genetics Factor Into Alcohol Abuse?
There are numerous factors that can influence whether or not someone develops a substance use disorder, and genetics are just one piece of the puzzle.
Through extensive psychiatry research, scientists have found that having certain gene pairs can account for roughly half a person’s risk for substance abuse or mental health disorders.
There is no single “alcohol gene,” but researchers have identified a handful of genetic variants that can lead to a predisposition to addiction, such as ADH1B, GABRB1, or ALDH2.
These genomes may regulate behavior, stress, or the body’s alcohol metabolism and ability to break down substances.
Researchers also found that Asian, African, and European people often present with different specific genes related to substance abuse.
Other Common Causes Of Alcohol Addiction
Finding the root cause of a person’s addiction can be challenging, and there may be more than one environmental factor that leads someone to substance abuse.
People with or without genetic risks for alcohol abuse may turn to alcohol consumption to manage stressful situations, such as a bad relationship or financial strain.
Understanding what may trigger someone to drink or use drugs in the first place can help prevent substance use disorders from forming.
Mental Health Disorders
Mental illnesses are one of the most frequently cited causes of alcohol or drug abuse. More than 40% of people with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness.
Anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all common among people with substance use disorders.
The symptoms of these mental health conditions can be challenging to manage, and people may turn to drinking alcohol as a form of self-medication.
Trauma, particularly childhood trauma, frequently leads to some form of substance abuse. This may be worsened if the person has inadequate access to therapy or other healthcare resources.
There are many different sources of trauma that may lead to addiction, such as sexual or physical assault, abusive relationships, war, natural disasters, or life-threatening accidents.
For some people, even witnessing these stressful experiences, without directly experiencing them themselves, such as the abuse of a parent, can cause trauma and its effects.
Chronic physical pain, such as that associated with life-long illnesses or injuries, can be debilitating to deal with.
Effective treatment options aren’t always readily available, so people may turn to substance use to dull painful physical and emotional symptoms, which may lead to addiction.
Numerous social factors can influence someone to try drugs or alcohol, including friends or family members who drink regularly or use illicit substances.
People who start drinking in adolescence due to these influences are also at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder in adulthood.
Having family members who participate in heavy drinking can be compounded by any potential genetic predisposition and cause a further increased risk for alcohol addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of AUD
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing alcohol dependence or addiction, there are a few key signs you can check for.
Indicators of alcohol addiction include:
- drastic changes in hygiene or appearance
- withdrawal from loved ones
- loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- poor performance at school or work
- financial troubles
- lying or stealing
- trying and failing to quit drinking
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using alcohol
- using alcohol in unsafe situations
When To Seek Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
Getting treatment for alcohol abuse is essential to prevent the condition from worsening or further impacting your or your loved one’s health.
Find Addiction Treatment Today
Alcohol abuse is a difficult health condition, but help is available. To discover addiction recovery resources available to you, contact us today.Article Sources
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
- National Library of Medicine