Is Alcoholism inherited or caused by environment?  If inherited is the child of an alcoholic deemed to be an alcoholic also without ever drinkingMy question re the children of an alcoholic stems...

Is Alcoholism inherited or caused by environment?  If inherited is the child of an alcoholic deemed to be an alcoholic also without ever drinking

My question re the children of an alcoholic stems from the fact that an alcoholic person is considered to still being an alcoholic even if they stop drinking.  If you are genetically predisposed to alcoholism, would you not be technically an alcoholic?

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I personally do not think that alcoholism is an inherited trait, I do believe that the propensity to be addicted to something has genetic connections.  For example, a person who has an alcoholic father might not be an alcoholic, but what often seems to happen is that that person struggles with another type of addiction (food, narcotic substances, gambling, etc.).  Most would agree that personality traits are passed down from one generation to the next; so if the trait of being inclined to participate in risky behavior or to find harmful means (such as addictive substances) to deal with life is genetic, one could argue that in a sense the tendency to become an alcoholic is inherited.

A personal example is from my husband's family.  His paternal grandfather became an alcoholic after World War II and still drinks heavily.  Similarly, my husband's father struggled with alcoholism for much of his life. My husband does not drink alcohol, partly out of a fear that he will develop an addiction to it, so while he is proof that one is not destined to be an addict or to repeat the problems of his or her ancestors, he also realizes that he might inherently possess a greater risk of being an addict. I have never heard him referred to as an alcoholic and have not read or heard of instances where medical experts refer to non-drinking children of alcoholics as alcoholics themselves.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer is some of both.  A person cannot really be born an alcoholic, although children born to alcoholic mothers sometimes suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a separate disability.  Someone can be born with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism, and then in combination with other factors become an alcoholic, but the predisposition itself does not constitute alcoholism either medically or socially.  Consider it a risk factor.

One point of argument towards genetic predisposition deals with the Native American experience with alcohol.  Since native tribes in the US have been exposed to alcohol for much less time than their European counterparts, they have had less resistance to its effects and a greater predisposition towards alcoholism.  This is not to say natives are born alcoholics.

Children of alcoholics are often advised not to drink just to minimize risk factors, just as those who are predisposed towards cancers or heart disease must also take health precautions.

nusratfarah | Student

Alcoholism is not inherited. It is an outcome of the environment and the the person's own will. It is a habitual act.