Alcohol Use Disorder and Genetics

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the continued, compulsive use of alcohol despite it causing significant problems in a person’s life.1 Certain factors, including genetics, can increase a person’s risk of developing AUD.2

This page will explain these risk factors, how genetics may influence certain treatment approaches, and how to find alcohol addiction treatment services in Mississippi.

Is Alcohol Use Disorder Genetic?

Addiction is thought to have a heritable component—meaning that a person’s genetic makeup can influence their risk of developing conditions such as an alcohol use disorder.

While genes are not the only factor that influences a person’s risk of developing alcohol addiction, studies show they account for approximately 50% of a person’s susceptibility to alcohol addiction.3,4

It’s not such a straightforward issue that someone may or may not have a definitive “addiction gene.” In fact, several genes may contribute to the risk of AUD. As the ability to run genome-wide association studies (GWAS) expanded, scientists have been able to identify multiple genetic variants that may affect alcohol use behaviors.5

Multiple aspects of alcohol use disorder make genetic research challenging—the genetic risk variants are both diverse and dynamic by nature.4,5 Additionally, genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction is just one of the possible contributing risk factors.2

More research is needed to understand specifically how genetic differences, as well as their interplay with a person’s environment, can impact the development of AUD.4

Alcohol Use Disorder Risk Factors

There are other risk factors for AUD in addition to genetics. Having one or more risk factors does not guarantee a person will develop AUD; it only increases the chances that they may.2

Biological Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction

A few key biological factors can contribute to the likelihood of alcohol addiction development:2

  • Genetics: Those who have parents with AUD may be at increased risk of developing problematic alcohol use themselves.6
  • Gender: Men in the United States typically consume alcohol more often and drink more heavily than women. Each year, a higher percentage of men are diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. However, this gap between the genders is narrowing.7
  • Mental health disorders: Having a mental health condition can also increase a person’s risk for alcohol addiction.2

Environmental Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder

In addition to genetics and biology, several environmental factors can also influence a person’s risk of developing alcohol-related problems:2

  • Home and family: For youth, older family members using alcohol at home as well as a lack of parental supervision can increase the chances of developing a substance use disorder.2
  • Peers and school: Peers have a strong influence on young people. Teenagers who socialize with peers who drink are more likely to drink themselves. Doing poorly in school or lacking social skills are also factors that can increase a person’s risk.2

Other Risk Factors for Addiction

Further, additional risk factors for alcohol addiction include:

  • Early alcohol use: The earlier in their lives people begin drinking alcohol—especially in adolescence—the greater the chances for alcohol-related problems in adulthood. This could be due to changes to the developing brain associated with early alcohol use.2
  • Amount and frequency of alcohol use: People who misuse alcohol over time, binge drink, and drink heavily have an increased risk of developing AUD.1

Does Genetics Impact Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

Genetics can impact alcohol addiction treatment in certain respects and to a certain degree. For instance, differences in how well people respond to treatment can in part be due to genetic factors such as brain chemistry and the speed with which their bodies metabolize certain medications.8

As part of a burgeoning field of study known as pharmacogenomics, this might one day help clinicians make more tailored treatment decisions for conditions such as substance use disorders.8

However, alcohol addiction is highly complex, and more research is needed to fully understand the role genes play in both the development of a substance use disorder and the subsequent treatment.8,9

As scientists continue to uncover new discoveries in the field of genetics, they can develop new medications tailored to a person’s specific genetic makeup.8,9

It is important to note that there is no one treatment plan that works for all. Addiction treatment should be tailored to the specific needs of each person.1,2,10

The 2 main aspects of treatment shown to be scientifically effective are the following:1

  • Pharmacological: Medications for AUD are non-addictive and can help a person decrease their alcohol use, maintain abstinence, and prevent relapse.1
  • Behavioral: Depending on a person’s needs, the behavioral aspect of AUD treatment can include different combinations of individual, group, and family therapy.10 There are also several different therapy approaches, such as cognitive behavioral, mindfulness, and motivational enhancement. Such therapies can equip a person with the tools needed to change their behavior and build coping skills.1

Medication and behavioral therapy are often combined as part of a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program.10

Alcohol Rehab in Mississippi

Oxford Treatment Center offers both outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi. Alcohol addiction treatment professionals provide individualized, evidence-based care on a beautiful campus where people can focus on their recovery.

At Oxford, in addition to common behavioral therapies, equine therapy is also incorporated during treatment. The on-site equestrian center houses several therapy horses, a large indoor arena, and other amenities.

Our alcohol rehab center provides all levels of treatment and offers multiple rehab payment options. If you have health insurance, Oxford Treatment Center is in-network with many of the major rehab insurance coverage providers. In fact, you can quickly .

It is never too late to seek help. Please call to speak to a rehab admissions navigator who can help connect you or a loved one with our treatment facility.

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