About heritability of alcoholism...

I was just reading the thread about people with inherited diseases having or not having children, regretting or not regretting doing either, and it makes me wonder…

Many people are saying that alcoholism can be inherited.

My great-great-grandfather was alcoholic. My great-grandmother and my grandmother were both strict teetotallers, and never tasted a drop. My father is a man of iron discipline in <i>all</i> things, and he has one glass of wine before bed almost every night.

Me, I usually don’t drink. If I am in company, I can have one glass of wine with dinner. If I am at a party, though, or if I decide to have wine with dinner while I am alone, I end up drunk. I get a buzz very quick, and decide I may as well go whole-hog, because I do it so rarely.

I am -not- familiar with what alcoholism is like and I am not suggesting that I am an alcoholic, but people have commented that my behavior indicates some kind of alcoholic tendency. Does it? Could it have been passed down from generation to generation for so long?

my but it IS sort of a self-absorbed question. sorry.

We’ve discusssed alcoholism in many threads. Here is one I started a few months ago.

I don’t think alcoholism is a disease and thus can be inherited. I can see people who grow up seeing alcohol abused might be more likely to abuse alcohol as that is what they see as “normal” drinking.

As you have a low tolerance for alcohol, there is a likely, especially on an empty stomach, you’re likely to feel the effect quickly.

I think some people simply have “addictive” personalities. They tend to overdo and can become dependent on things more easily than others. I also think that certain tendencies in this direction can be inherited. I don’t have a cite, but IIRC the book “The Nurture Assumption” went into this issue. For example, in identical twins separated at birth, if one had an addiction of some sort, the other was much more likely than would be predicted by chance alone to have an addiction as well. Also, in studies of adopted children, the adoptees tended to be more like their birth parents than their adoptive parents in such matters.

Please note the word “tend.” I don’t think there is an absolute that if both your parents were addicted to alcohol (or anything else) that you are predestined to be so as well. If both your parents are much shorter than average, you will probably never play center for the Knicks, and there is nothing you can do about it. But if you observe that they do not tolerate alcohol well, or have difficulty abstaining, or can’t seem to keep a job because they drink too much, you COULD recognize that this is a potential problem for you and make decisions appropriately to avoid their situation.

What the AMa has to say about it.





But what do they know…

Both of my grandparents(now deceased) were alcoholics. My father and aunt(their children) are recovering alcoholics. I have my father’s tolerance, but I hardly ever drink. I just don’t really like the taste of alcohol. I still have no doubt that alcoholism is inherited.

There’s really no doubt that having a strong family history of alcoholism raises the risk for alcoholism in a person. This has been demonstrated even when the person has been adopted, and raised in an environment where alcohol is consumed in a neutral or healthy fashion.

But it appears that the inherited component is multi-factorial. That is to say it’s not via strict Mendelian genetics, where if dad had it, each offspring has a 50% chance of having it. That’s not how it works. Heck, there are cases of identical twins, one of which becomes alcoholic, the other clearly does not. Many factors are at play, and genetics is just one of them.

In fact, medicine is still trying to find out just how genetics works in the disease of alcoholism. But it certainly is true to state that while having a family history of substance abuse clearly raises the risk, it is by no means inevitable.

I take personal offense at dalej42’s opine. Being that it is only a personal opinion keeps me from exploding.

Alcoholism, IMNSHO, is most definitely a disease. My parents were not alcohol abusers in the slightest. I think I might have seen my mom tipsy once, and she was quite ill from it. The alcoholism comes from my father’s Germanic side. Both of his parents, his brother and sister, two of three nieces/nephews and his one offspring (me) are/were all alcoholic. Somehow, it skipped my dad, lucky for him. I’ve heard that it can skip generations. With that belief, I can somewhat console myself as to the future of my two young boys.

I do not, of course, intend any personal offense.

However, I continue to believe that there is no disease of alcoholism. I wish there were more medical professionals who would study this. I’ve found this website to be of particular interest. Alcohol abuse can be a problem, I don’t doubt that. I still believe that it more of a “bad habit” than disease.

RSSchen, I think you might be mistaking genetics for disease. Alcoholism or the tendency to alchoholism may indeed be inherited; like Qadgop said, that’s not a simple question to answer. Something being inherited doesn’t make it a disease, though, any more than inheriting baldness makes being bald a disease.

I’m not willing to say yay or nay on alcholism being a disease; I don’t have enough information yet. I will say that the medical community believing something about a condition doesn’t necessarily make it so. There is still a whole lot of “best-guessing” going on in medical science today.