A Family History of Alcoholism
Are You at Risk?
If you are among the millions of people in this country
who have a parent, grandparent, or other close relative with alcoholism,
you may have wondered what your family's history of alcoholism means for
you. Are problems with alcohol a part of your future? Is your risk for
becoming an alcoholic greater than for people who do not have a family
history of alcoholism? If so, what can you do to lower your risk?
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that
includes four symptoms:
Craving- A strong need, or urge, to drink.
Loss of control- Not being able to stop drinking
once drinking has begun.
Physical dependence- Withdrawal symptoms, such as
upset stomach, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping
Tolerance- The need to drink greater amounts of
alcohol to get "high".
Many scientific studies, including research conducted among twins and
children of alcoholics, have shown that genetic factors influence
alcoholism. These findings show that children of alcoholics are about
four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol
problems. Children of alcoholics also have a higher risk for many other
behavioral and emotional problems. But alcoholism is not determined only
by the genes you inherit from your parents. In fact, more than one-half
of all children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic. Research shows
that many factors influence your risk of developing alcoholism. Some
factors raise the risk while others lower it.