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Does Alcoholism Run in Families?

Alcoholism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. If an individual is struggling with alcohol use, it’s not uncommon to look at their family history and find that they may have other relatives who share the same struggle. While having relatives that use substances does not guarantee that your teen will do so, it is a good reason to keep lines of communication open with your teen about the dangers of alcohol use.

How Environmental Factors Influence Alcoholism

The risks of your teen developing an alcohol addiction are increased if someone in their immediate family, like mom or dad, abuses alcohol. If alcohol is a prominent fixture in a child’s environment as they grow up, teens may see drinking as no big deal. If you or your partner have a history of alcohol use, it’s important to recognize that this will impact your child’s development and potential future substance use. It’s also important to be open and honest about your struggles rather than hide them, so your teen can understand how alcohol can negatively impact one’s health on a more personal level.

Many environmental factors can lead to the development of addiction in your teen. Teens who grow up in abusive, neglectful, or tense households in which the parents are always arguing may be more inclined to use alcohol to cope. Similarly, being exposed to substance use in peer groups may cause your teen to be curious about the effects of alcohol and want to experiment with it.

Is Alcohol Tolerance Hereditary?

Alcohol tolerance refers to the amount of alcohol a person has to consume before feeling its effects. Consuming large amounts of alcohol, or drinking alcohol regularly, can lead to an increase in tolerance. This means that an individual will have to drink alcohol in larger quantities to feel its desired effects. It may seem like high tolerance is linked to genetics, but alcohol tolerance is not believed to be an inherited trait.

Conversely, alcohol intolerance is believed to be genetic due to issues with metabolism. This is most commonly seen in people of Asian descent.

Alcoholism and Pregnancy

While genes play a role in determining alcoholism later in life, children of mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding may experience long-term health consequences. There are established links between excessive drinking while pregnant and children born with brain damage or fetal alcohol syndrome. This can increase the likelihood of children developing poor motor function, learning disabilities, and alcohol addiction in later years. For mothers who drank through pregnancy, it’s unlikely that they will stop after birth. This means the baby will have prolonged exposure to alcohol through breastmilk.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism

As addiction can develop in anyone at any time, it is important to be familiar with the warning signs that may point to alcohol addiction or alcoholism. Some common warning signs may include:

  • Having regular cravings for alcohol
  • Being unable to stop drinking once you start
  • Having to consume larger amounts of alcohol in one sitting to reach the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal effects, such as mood swings, nausea, or tremors, when not drinking

If any of these symptoms apply to you or your teen, we strongly advise you to seek help right away. Talk to your doctor about your concerns or look into addiction treatment programs that can help you treat the underlying causes of your substance use.

How Can I Break the Cycle Of Addiction in My Family?

Breaking the cycle of addiction in your family is challenging but not impossible. Here are some ways you can actively prevent addiction from developing in your or your loved one’s lives:

Demonstrate Responsibility

If you plan to attend an event where you know alcohol will be present, explain the importance of having a designated driver to your teen. If you question your ability to say no to a drink at an event with an open bar, such as a wedding, consider not having a drink at all or even skipping the event. Recognize that your teen is always watching you, whether consciously or unconsciously. You are a valuable role model for your child.

Talk to Your Teen

Talk to your teen regularly about the risks of alcohol use and alcohol addiction so they can make good choices while out with their friends. Your goal shouldn’t be to scare them but instead arm them with facts so they can take charge of their health. Similarly, having regular conversations with your teen about alcohol use is valuable because if they begin to struggle with it, they can come to you about it with honesty. Then, you can work as a team to get your teen connected with a treatment program.

When alcoholism runs in families, it’s easy to feel hopeless about stopping the cycle. Perhaps you’re thinking that the challenge of getting and staying sober is too much. Maybe you’re afraid of your teenager making the same destructive choices that you did, or you are seeing signs of the addiction cycle repeating in your teen already. Clearfork Academy specializes in treating teens and adolescents with drug and alcohol issues. We are a treatment facility that offers therapies, detox, inpatient and outpatient programs, and summer programs to help young people conquer their addictions and live healthy, sober lives. Our combination of spiritual and innovative psychological techniques has been shown to change the lives of many young people and their families. Yours can be next! For questions or to learn more about our treatments, please give us a call at (817) 259-2597.

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