Is Alcoholism Genetic? - An Overview of Alcohol Addiction & Heredity

Gay parents raising their kids while one wonders if their alcoholism is genetic
Table of Contents

It’s natural to be curious about whether alcohol misuse can run in families if you or a loved one struggle with it. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Understanding the role of genetics in AUD is a crucial step in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disorder. 

If you’re worried about the hereditary risks of alcoholism, you can take our high-functioning alcohol quiz to determine if you or your loved one may be at risk.

Looking for a LGBT-Focused Rehab?

Alcoholism and Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in the development of alcoholism. Studies have shown that genetic effects account for approximately 60% of the variance in alcoholism risk. This means that about half of the risk of developing alcoholism can be attributed to genetic factors. 

Numerous genes have been identified as being associated with alcoholism, including those involved in the brain’s reward system, stress response, and alcohol metabolism. It is important to note that no single gene determines whether someone will develop alcoholism, but rather a combination of genes, each with a small effect, contributes to the overall risk.


Alcoholism: Does it Skip Generations?

Alcoholism can be hereditary, and it’s possible for children of non-alcoholic parents to develop the disorder, according to the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Though, this is not necessarily true for every situation. Alcoholism is a complex disorder influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. 

While genetics play a significant role in the risk of developing alcoholism, environmental factors, such as upbringing and life experiences, can also shape an individual’s susceptibility to the disorder. Family history and environment can affect a person’s risk of developing alcoholism. A supportive upbringing can prevent alcoholism even in those with a family history, while genetic and environmental factors can lead to alcoholism in those without a strong family history.


Can I be Born with Alcohol Use Disorder?

While a person cannot be born with alcohol use disorder, they can be born with a genetic predisposition to the disorder, making them more susceptible to developing it later in life. This genetic predisposition, combined with environmental factors such as exposure to alcohol during childhood and adolescence, can influence the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. It is essential for individuals with a family history of alcoholism to be aware of their increased risk and take steps to mitigate it.


Nature vs. Nurture Debate

The nature vs. nurture debate is a long-standing discussion in many fields of research, and alcoholism is no exception. The question of whether alcoholism is primarily influenced by genetics or environmental factors has been debated for decades. However, recent research suggests that both factors play a role in the development of alcoholism and that they are interconnected. 

Genetics and environment both play a role in alcoholism development. Genetic predisposition increases the likelihood, and environmental factors trigger gene expression. Environmental factors like social pressure or stressful events can also affect susceptibility to alcoholism, regardless of genetic predisposition. Understanding the relationship between these factors is crucial in designing successful prevention and treatment measures for alcoholism.


Family History of Alcoholism: Tips to Reduce Risk

For individuals with a family history of alcoholism, prevention is crucial. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of developing alcoholism:


  • Be aware of your family history and discuss it openly with family members to create a supportive environment.
  • Limit exposure to alcohol, especially during adolescence when the brain is still developing, and encourage responsible drinking habits as adults.
  • Foster open communication within the family and maintain a stable, nurturing environment.
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress and emotional challenges, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.


Environmental factors, such as living with an alcoholic, also play a significant role in alcoholism, along with genetics. Creating a supportive and healthy environment can help reduce the risk of developing alcoholism. Seek professional help and support if you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or alcohol misuse. With the right resources and support, recovery is possible.

It’s important to stay committed to sobriety. The holiday season can be a challenging time for those in recovery from alcohol addiction, and it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and healthy holiday season. Check out our tips for staying sober during the holidays

Take our Alcoholism Quiz if you're worried

Find Treatment for Alcoholism at No Matter What Recovery

Treatment for alcoholism should be tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. At No Matter What Recovery, our alcohol rehab treatment program includes the following:


  • Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational interviewing, helps develop healthier coping strategies and improve relationships.
  • Medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for alcohol during detox.
  • Support groups and 12-step programs to provide a network of understanding and encouragement, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.
  • Outpatient rehabilitation programs for more structured and comprehensive care, including detox


Genetics and environmental factors both influence susceptibility to the disorder. Recovery from alcoholism is possible with professional help, medication, support groups, and behavioral therapy. Reach out to No Matter What Recovery for treatment and support if you’re struggling with alcohol misuse.