Is Alcoholism Genetic or Environmental?
There has always been the question, why do people become alcoholics? How can
something as simple as alcohol change someone? But when it comes to alcohol, is it a choice? Or
is it inherited? There are always two sides to every topic. Some people think it’s due to peer
pressure, they do it for status, or they think it’s environmental. Others think alcoholism inherited
it that’s it’s all genetic. There is no research saying which one is correct, or which one is
authentic. Although there is research that shows alcoholism is genetic, there is also research that
shows alcoholism is environmentally influenced.
Walters discusses many tests he ran to find if alcoholism is genetic or environmental?
When it came to determining a test deciding whether it’s genetic or environmental he finds that
“the outcome confirmed that the heritability of alcohol misuse is stronger in males. In studies
employing more severe definitions of abuse (alcoholism, alcohol dependence).” (557). Walters
explains how the tests show some cases for alcoholism being genetic. When they did find it was
genetic, it predominantly occurred in males. They don’t know why it occurs more in males
however, tests show that alcoholism is more likely to occur when it comes to the male gender.
Another test Walters ran was when he compared adopted children to non adopted children. His
research showed that families that had a history of alcohol dependency that adopted kids didn’t
have a problem with alcohol. However, the families that didn’t adopt their kids; studies showed
that those kids did have a problem with alcohol meaning in this case that alcoholism is genetic.
Walters research of the different studies he tested show that alcoholism can be genetic.
Many researchers have stated that alcoholism is a mixture between genes and
environmental influences. McGue, in his article strongly agrees that alcoholism is genetic and he
states that it is heritable 75% of the time. He talks about how it is genetic in many cases; that
adolescents can receive alcoholism through the psychological predisposition. Meaning that either
they are born with it already or the parents positively influence their children with the use of
alcohol. Genetically speaking, a trait is passed down from a parent to a child. McGue says that
even if they aren’t born with an “alcoholism trait,” that the parents allow their children to drink
or encourage it. Meaning they are passing the trait down because their parents did the same,
making it seem like a genetic case. McGue states “early adolescent problem behavior including
experimentation with nicotine and illicit drugs, precocious sexual experience, and early contact
with the police, and that taken together these indicators can define a factor of early adolescent
problem behavior.” (592) With Mcgues findings it shows that even though if a trait isn’t passed
down, a parent can affect them other ways.
Alcoholism is difficult to measure, moreover genetic vs. environmental. Van Den Bree
also talks about how alcoholism can be genetic. Research used in this article show that the
outcome of alcoholism is mainly genetic. The tests they ran on children from ages 11-17 showed
that 70% was genetically influenced. It showed that alcoholism was only 30% environmentally
influenced. However, in most cases Van Den Bree shows that alcoholism is mainly genetic. Her
test shows that children are born with an alcoholism gene that predisposes them to becoming an
alcoholic. Van Den Bree states “The genetic and environmental influences on adolescent alcohol
use and problems use and their friends’ alcohol use; and whether the relationship between
friends’ and adolescent alcohol use is influenced by genetic or environmental factors.” (895) Van
Dan Bree reports this; however, he does state that in his research he found that alcoholism is
Research can also show that alcoholism is environment just as much if not more then it
being genetic. Biju and Srinivasm, in their article about alcoholism discuss how it is
environmentally influenced. They say that there are “four types of high risk behavior: road traffic
accidents, violence, self-injuries, and risk sexual behavior.”(.376) They first say that alcoholism
is to blame when it comes to these four events. They also say that in almost all of these cases that
it was environmentally influenced. It some incidents it was peer pressure, such as friends talking
friends into drinking. They get addicted to alcohol through friends and can’t/ don’t want to stop,
because they either like it or think it makes them “cooler.” Some people drink alcohol for status
and to maintain a social position.
When it comes to research there always two sides to what they are trying to find. Coming
to an answer to see if alcoholism is genetic or environmental, there are two sides. Walters states
in his article that alcoholism can be genetic however, it can also be environmental. Some of his
tests show that; far from being established as a “fact” the genetic foundations of alcohol misuse
are modest and heterogeneous.(.557) Meaning even though his tests show that it can be genetic
that it’s not always genetic. It’s not a fact therefore, alcoholism can be environmental also.
When Van Den Bree talks about running tests on children ages from 11-17, she states that
30% of the children are influenced through environmental influences. Such as peer pressure,
anger issues, personal problems, or anything leading to an adolescent to try drinking. She never
states which one is truer, just that it can be both genetic and environmental. In her studies, Van
Den Brees talks about how it’s never one more than the other.
In conclusion, when it comes to the question about whether alcoholism is genetic or
environmental, there is no correct answer. Research shows that it can be both. We will never
actually know the real reason as to why people become alcoholics or why alcoholism is such an
issue when it comes to children. All we know is that research proves that in some cases it can be
genetic and in other cases it can be environmental. Either way, my personal view is that there
shouldn’t be such a thing as a disease called alcoholism. To me, it’s a choice. I don’t think
people should be able to blame it on genetics or be able to blame alcoholism on environmental
issues. Either you don’t drink or you control yourself when you do drink.
Walters, Glenn D. "THE HERITABILITY OF ALCOHOL ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE: A
META-ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR GENETIC RESEARCH." American Journal of
Drug & Alcohol Abuse 28.3 (2002): 557. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25
Poulose Biju, and Srinivasan Krishnamachari. "High risk behaviours following alcohol use in
alcohol dependent men." Indian Journal of Medical Research 129.4 (2009): 376-381.
Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.
McGue Matt, et al. "Parental alcohol dependence and the transmission of adolescent behavioral
disinhibition: a study of adoptive and non-adoptive families." Addiction 104.4 (2009):
578-586. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.
Van Den Bree, B.M. Marianne, et al. "Genetic and environmental influences on the relationship
between peer alcohol use and own alcohol use in adolescents." Addiction 102.6 (2007):
894-903. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.