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Alcoholism and Family History

By Steve Joseph

For those of us with a parent, grandparent or close family member who has struggled with alcoholism, we often ponder what this means for us.

Are we destined to travel the same path and endure the same fate?

Are we predisposed to addictive behavior?

Does a family history of alcoholism translate into higher risks for us?

Can anything be done to reduce the risks?

These questions can be quite frightening, especially for people who already have a first hand knowledge and experience with the destructive face of alcohol. But like any issue, the best way to handle it is with a solution oriented approach.

First of all, scientific studies have been done to examine the relationship between alcoholism and genetics. The results of these studies indicate that genetics does play a role in alcohol abuse. According to one study, children of alcoholics are about four times more likely to develop alcohol problems that the general population. Furthermore, these same children are at significantly greater risk of behavioral and emotional problems. However it is important that we bear in mind that these figures only indicate a relative increase in risk, and make no attempt to predict the outcome of individuals. Well over one half of all children of alcohol addicts never develop alcoholic behavior.This highlights the fact that while family history is a major factor for consideration, there are other factors that can increase and moreover, decrease the risk of alcoholism.

Just because one or even both of an individuals parents have a history of alcoholism, or perhaps the individual has grown up in a troubled household, does not guarantee any outcome. Many people with a history of alcoholism and troubled childhoods never develop alcoholic tendencies. Being aware of risk factors though, is a practical way of identifying potential problems before they eventuate and should be encouraged. For anyone who is concerned or worried by a the existence of a pattern of alcoholic behavior, here are some practical tips for you:

-Avoid underage drinking. Aside from being illegal, drinking at a young age often fosters unhealthy forms of drinking such as binge drinking.

-Drink moderately as an adult. Alcohol should always be used n moderation and if there is any doubt, stop all together. This will answer any lingering doubts about your drinking habits.

-Talk to your doctor about your consumption of alcohol and family history. This is a good way to get an independent assessment of your relationship with alcohol.


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