Genetics and Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : MARCH 16, 
| 3 Sources

A number of scientific studies have verified a link between genetics and alcoholism. The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), sponsored by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the most thorough research initiative to date on genetics and alcoholism, cites compelling evidence that alcoholism does run in families.

COGA notes that children of alcoholic parents, especially sons of alcoholic fathers, are four to nine times more likely to have problems with alcohol than children of non-alcoholic parents.

The inborn nature of alcoholism is further indicated by the fact that children born to alcoholic parents, yet adopted and raised by non-alcoholics, still carry a high risk for alcoholism.

While children born to non-alcoholic parents, and adopted and raised by alcoholic parents, are not at high risk to develop the disease.

COGA emphasizes that those who are vulnerable to alcoholism based on family history are not completely powerless to prevent the illness from coming to fruition. People with a genetic disposition to alcoholism can begin averting the disease by staying away from underage drinking.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says research shows that the risk for alcoholism is higher among people who begin to drink at an early age, perhaps as a result of both environmental and genetic factors.

As adults, these individuals should keep close tabs on their alcohol intake or abstain from drinking altogether.

Genetics and Alcoholism Prevention

The NIH recommends keeping healthcare providers informed of family history to so they may closely monitor patients to help them avoid problems with alcohol.

It is important to remember that while alcoholism does appear to run in families, not all children of alcoholics develop problems with alcohol.

COGA also encourages children of alcoholics to get involved with the ongoing research into alcoholism and genetics if they have an opportunity to do so.

COGA, for example, has established research sites in New York, Connecticut, California, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri. The sooner the genetic basis for alcoholism is found, the quicker medications and other preventive strategies can be found to diminish its impact.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

Related Information

Alcoholism and Genetics - More information on how alcoholism effects the children of alcoholic parents.

Alcoholism and Heredity - Further discussion on the connection between alcoholism, heredity, and the environment.

Alcoholism in Russia - Learn about the ongoing problem of increased alcohol consumption in Russia. Facts and statistics on Russian alcohol abuse and dependence.

NIAAA - COGA Study - Collaborative studies on genetics of alcoholism.

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