Most of the human characteristics are a combination of either his or her acquired characteristics that he or she has inculcated during his or her growing years or are a consequence of his or her genetic makeup or familial tendencies. How a person will become, or what all good and bad habits he is going to develop will be decided depending upon the environment he has been brought up into, the kind of people he was surrounded by, the things and situations he have been exposed to. Similarly, equal impact takes place due to the genetic factors of the person. Environmentally acquired factors do shape up the personality, but the familial influence also plays an equally important role in determining the character of a person.
Alcoholism is a form of addiction which is a result of both poor nurturing and the inbuilt nature of the person. A family background of alcoholism increases the chances of an individual to get addicted to alcohol. Along with that, the environment where a person is exposed to more of alcoholics also predisposes to alcoholism.
(Alcoholism Statistics, 2015)
It is a scientifically proven fact that genetics has an important role to play in the characteristics outcome of an individual. Many researchers have proven this fact in repeated experiments of theirs. This belief has been present since ages. Even Aristotle and Plutarch also shared the view that alcoholism runs in the families. A drunkard father will have a drunkard son. This type of inheritance is called as the Lamarckian pattern of inheritance. The children of the drunkards have four to five times higher chances of being alcoholic than the ones who are not (Goodwin, 1985). Not just alcoholism, families having alcoholics in multiple generations are also prone to mental disorders. This has been proved through a rigorous study conducted on children of the age group from 8 to 18 years. These children were compared to the children selected from control group families. The results supported the fact that alcoholism in more than one generation, even if present among relatives (other than direct family members), predisposes the children to mental disorders (HILL & HRUSKA, 1992).
Studies are being conducted in order to locate the genes responsible for familial or genetic susceptibility for alcoholism. It has already been established that there indeed exists some link between the familial tendency to alcoholism and the chances of children developing the same. But there is no evidence of any particular gene being linked to this phenomenon. This is a field of genetics that is yet to be deciphered (Devor & Cloninger, 1989). However, it has been observed that not a single, but a number of genes are responsible for alcoholism among individuals. Some people of the Asian countries are known to develop symptoms like flushing, vomiting, nausea and palpitation on drinking alcohol. These people therefore avoid alcohol and hence never turn into alcoholics (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, 2008).
(Losing your childhood to an alcoholic parent, 2015)
The genetic implication of alcoholism is seen to be more prominent in the males than the females. Almost 50- 60% of alcoholism cases are linked to the genetic preponderance. However nothing much is known about the nature of such gene till date. Research work is going on to find out the genes responsible for familial tendency to alcoholism (McGue, 1999). Evidences also show that children who are adopted by alcoholic parents are less likely to grow up as alcoholic adults than those who are born to alcoholic parents (biologically alcoholic parents reproduce alcoholic children). even twin children who are raised in different cultural backgrounds, with different family environments, having different drinking or non drinking patterns are also likely to exhibit similar drinking patterns due to their genetic similarities. Scientists enumerate numbers of factors or genetic traits which may be responsible for increasing alcohol dependency. Some of the factors are metabolism of alcohol in the body, response of the brain to alcohol, pleasure sensors, sensitivity to particular odors, levels of chemicals in the brain and cravings for sweets. The way the body metabolizes alcohol is different for different individuals. This depends on the liver enzymes of the individual. Due to this there can be instances when certain individuals react negatively to alcohol. Such persons are therefore less likely to become alcoholic. Some genes regulate the reaction of neurotransmitters to the presence of alcohol in the blood. This determines the chances of a person becoming addicted to alcohol. Endorphins are the chemical messengers present in the blood that elates the mood of a person. in some people alcohol intake leads to release of endorphins hence giving a good and happy feeling to the individual. The amount of endorphin released varies from person to person, therefore it determines the chances of a person to become alcoholic or not. Someone who experiences more elation of mood post alcohol consumption is more likely to become alcoholic. Some people may find the aroma of alcohol as pleasing while some may find it offensive; people finding it unpleasant are less likely to become alcoholic. In certain individuals the secretion of naturally occurring pain relievers is reduced, these individuals may resort to alcohol in order to get the feeling of exhilaration. Even when someone may want to quit alcohol, the intensity of their withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to person. This variation may be dependent on the genetic susceptibility of the patient. The individuals hence having more intense and worse withdrawal symptoms have lesser chances of quitting alcohol. In a study it was observed that the children of alcoholic patients have increased cravings for sweets and sugary food items. These children when grown up may develop a similar craving for alcohol too (Alcoholism: Nature vs. Nurture, 2015).
Nurturing may consist of a number of factors. When a child is brought up in a family environment where there is much of stress and tension, where the family bonds are not strong enough to hold the people of the family together, in such circumstances the children get more prone to different types of addictions. The addiction gives them a kind of respite from the stress in the home environment. They find it as a solution to their loneliness.
Teenagers may also get addicted to alcohol under peer pressure. Nowadays, peer pressure is one of the biggest problems seen among the youth worldwide. Young children get influenced by their peer groups and in order to fit in the groups, they inculcate certain habits that not only affect them but also their families to a great extent. Teenagers have minds that are immature and are very much moldable. They acquire information from different sources which may at times be false and deceptive. In order to verify such information themselves, they begin to try them hands- on. Such behaviors may have negative repercussions on their bodies and innocent minds. In certain cultural values, drinking an enormous quantity of alcohol during special occasions or functions is considered to be acceptable. In such instances it is commoner to find alcoholics. Once a person develops the habit of drinking it will be hard for him or her to give up on that habit. The body starts craving for more alcohol once an individual starts drinking (Nlcatp.org, 2014).
Nowadays, divorce among parents is a common occurrence. Children of divorced parents become loners and depressed. Then there is large number of factors in today’s lives which increases day to stress. In order to get rid of such stress, the youngsters resort to drinking which then becomes a habit which becomes hard to give up. Children who grow up seeing their parents or grandparents drinking are more susceptible to drinking themselves. They consider it normal and hence often get involved in binge drinking.
Both the nature of a person and the way he is brought up or nurtured greatly determines the fact that if the individual will become alcoholic or not. May be one of these two factors may not suffice in order to determine such a characteristic in a person. both the factors will be required to work together, hand in hand in order to bring out such consequences. Controlling the nurturing of the individual, or bringing up a child in a good environment even with a positive family history of alcoholism may save him or her from becoming an alcoholic. It is not always necessary to have a genetic background of alcoholism for an individual to become one, but the chances can be marginally lesser. Hence both the factors are required to act simultaneously for developing a normal individual into an alcoholic. At the same time, he can be saved from alcoholism if he is brought up in a positive environment.
Talking about treatment options for such a mental disorder is important to consider in order to reduce the number of alcoholics. Scientists are working to find out some solutions for the genetic alcoholism. Two medications which are used for reducing cholesterol levels and for controlling diabetes are found to be effective in controlling the craving for alcohol. These medicines are fenofibrate or tricor and pioglitazone or actos (Heitz, 2014). Treatment for acquired alcoholism may consist of rehabilitation or counseling against addiction. Almost every country in the world has rehabilitation centers for treating the alcoholics. Genetic alcoholism is somewhat difficult to control as compared to the acquired one. However, acquired alcoholism can be treated with counseling and proper guidance to the affected individual. A good upbringing with good company can shape up the future of a child. He will grow up as a responsible adult if given a good growing environment. Love and support are what the alcoholics need. Good guidance can change the mental makeup of a person drastically. Thus it is all about care and affection that a person with such an addiction, or any form of addiction needs. A good home environment, strong family bonds, healthy relations with near ones, and a good peer connection can help a person get rid of alcoholism, in fact it may prevent a person from indulging into alcoholism completely.
Alcoholism Statistics. (2015). Retrieved from http://images.about-addiction.com/alcoholism-statistics-graph1.png
Alcoholism: Nature vs. Nurture. (2015) (1st ed.). Manhattan.
Devor, E., & Cloninger, C. (1989). Genetics of Alcoholism. Annu. Rev. Genet., 23(1), 19-36. doi:10.1146/annurev.ge.23.120189.000315
Goodwin, D. (1985). Alcoholism and Genetics. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 42(2), 171. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790250065008
Heitz, D. (2014). Scientists Find First Gene Network Linked to Alcoholism. Healthline. Retrieved 22 July 2015, from http://www.healthline.com/health-news/scientists-find-gene-network-linked-to-alcoholism-120914
HILL, S., & HRUSKA, D. (1992). Childhood Psychopathology in Families with Multigenerational Alcoholism. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(6), 1024-1030. doi:10.1097/00004583-199211000-00004
Losing your childhood to an alcoholic parent. (2015). Retrieved from https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSD0d8Hhapm0eEBcj2naKQ-NGW60n73jJLSSsr95RFXOGJnk0qcAA
McGue, M. (1999). The Behavioral Genetics of Alcoholism. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 8(4), 109-115. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00026
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism,. (2008). Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Retrieved 22 July 2015, from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders/genetics-alcohol-use-disorders
Nlcatp.org,. (2014). Alcoholism Nature vs Nurture | NLCATP.org. Retrieved 22 July 2015, from http://nlcatp.org/alcoholism-nature-vs-nurture/