Do Genetics Cause Alcoholism?

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Do Genes Have an Impact on Whether or Not Someone is an Alcoholic?

The way that your genetics influences whether or not you might end up with alcoholism, officially referred to as “Alcohol Use Disorder”, can actually make up about half of what leads a person to having an issue with alcohol abuse. Interestingly, however, that means that genes by themselves are not the cause of becoming an addict.  

And there are different ways that different genes can increase or decrease a person’s risk for alcohol use disorder. As noted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing AUD. There are genes that increase a person’s risk, as well as those that may decrease that risk, directly or indirectly.” Furthermore, some gene variants can cause people to become especially flush while drinking, have noticeably increased heart rates, severe nausea, or other immediately and unpleasant reactions to alcohol beyond inebriation. Regarding these, the NIAAA says, “Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing AUD.”


Genes May Also Play a Role in Treating Alcoholism

Just as genetics can mean people react differently to consuming alcohol, their genes can also lead to different reactions to medicines sometimes used in treating alcohol use disorder. As far as naltrexone is concerned, the NIAAA has said it “has been shown to help some, but not all, patients with AUD to reduce their drinking. Research has shown that patients with AUD who also have variations in a specific gene respond positively to treatment with the drug, while those without the specific gene do not.”


It is important to note, however, that nobody has genes that dictate that they can’t end their alcohol use disorder. Millions of people have put a stop to their alcoholism with the help of rehab centers, and First Step Behavioral Health has the tools and experience to help get you off alcohol, too. Contact us today to beat your addiction and return to sober living.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.