Alcoholism is such a serious, life-altering disease. It has been studied in depth, and numerous researchers have devoted their lives to ending this disease. We now know ways to help people become sober and deal with their alcoholism, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could prevent it in the first place?
We know that certain things in a person’s environment make them more prone to alcoholism. Peer pressure is certainly a factor when it comes to people abusing alcohol, which can lead to dependence. A large amount of stress at work, or in the family, can also be a reason that a person starts abusing alcohol.
There are certain personality traits that make a person more likely to abuse alcohol. If someone has low self-esteem they are considered higher risk of becoming an alcoholic, as well as people that tend to be antisocial.
Researchers are also finding that genetics play a part in alcoholism. Just think of all the fathers that drink excessively that end up having alcoholic sons. We can also observe that certain ethnicities of people are more or less likely to be alcoholics. Asian individuals are thought to avoid alcoholism more often, while Native Americans are dubbed more likely to be alcoholics.
Complex Web of Factors
New studies have shown that alcoholism is actually the result of all of these factors working together. Researchers have called it a “complex web” of factors.
A study done by Victor Hesselbrock of the University of Connecticut confirms this theory. The study, which was part of the national “Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism” project, looked at 1,900 families and was able to identify 15 genes that do have a large connection to alcoholism. For example, the study showed that Asian individuals have a gene that keeps them from metabolizing alcohol quickly, which prevents them from drinking large amounts.
Hesselbrock also studied people that were adopted as children, in order to start determining the role genetics plays vs. the environment. He found that, while genetics does play a part in someone becoming an alcoholic, the disease has to be influenced by the environment in order for a person to even start drinking.
Other researchers have also begun studying the effects of genetics and the environment together, and they would agree. Certain environments are able to either encourage or restrain gene expression. These might be simple things, like if a person lives in a city they may be more likely to start abusing alcohol, as opposed to those in rural setting, where they are more likely to avoid it.
More research needs to be done to further understand the connection between environment and genetics when it comes to alcoholism. The good news is that heredity alone does not determine whether or not a person will become an alcoholic. Therefore, we can work to reduce factors around the person that would encourage them to begin drinking.