Is Alcoholism Inherited?

Learn if alcoholism is inherited in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.

Transcript

People are often concerned about whether they can inherit alcohol disorders or other substance disorders. What we do know now from research, is that there is a genetic predisposition to developing alcohol problems. There are genes that we know could be passed on from generation to generation, that can determine the potential for an alcohol use disorder. People have to be careful that, if there is a lot of alcohol use and alcohol problems in a family, they should know that and often people don't want to discuss it. There's a lot of shame that goes along with substance use disorders. But families, they should discuss it, because what it really means for someone, is that if you have a child and you have a family where there's been a lot of alcohol problems, even if you as a parent may not have any kind of problem with substance use, it means that your child may have a higher likelihood of developing a substance use disorder than the child in a family where there isn't that genetic predisposition.

On the other hand, people can get very scared about that and feel that, "Oh my God, if I have this in my family, I can never drink." Well, that's certainly a choice to be made by an individual. They may not want to take that risk. But what it really does mean, is that people need to be much more mindful of how they drink and how they may use other substances. They may need to be more mindful than the next person, of that. And, again, I say that with the caveat that all of us should be mindful of how much we drink, or use any substances. But people who have that genetic predisposition, have to be particularly so and really need to always be thinking about their drinking and how much they drink and how they're drinking, and really, throughout their life. And really teaching their children the same thing.

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