Alcoholism: Is It Possible That You Got It From Your Parents?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Alcoholism as defined by Wikipedia, is a disorder that is characterized by an excessive dependence upon and craving for alcoholic beverages. This dependence affects every aspect of the alcoholic person’s life. Socially, personally, and professionally, it can lead to mental and physical harm to the person that is drinking and often to those around him or her. Many people consider alcoholism and alcohol abuse to be the same. However, a person who abuses alcohol does not crave alcohol or become dependent on it. The alcohol abuser usually just goes out and decides to drink so much that it results in poor judgment and social, legal, and professional consequences. Alcohol abuse that goes on for a long period of time often leads to alcoholism. Although people believe that alcohol abuse is a result of personal choice, there is enough evidence and research to suggest that alcohol abuse is in fact a result of heredity or at least proves that it is a major factor.

Alcoholism: Is It Possible That You Got It From Your Parents?

Have you ever wondered why some people turn to alcohol to get away from their problems? Have you yourself ever had a member of your family that was an alcoholic? This is a brief story about a young man named John Moore and his grandfather who was a closet alcoholic. More reclusive than anything else, when John’s grandfather drank during the day he would put some Jack Daniel’s Whiskey in his coffee and drink just enough to keep him a little buzzed all day long, and then when everyone else was in bed, he would watch some John Wayne movies and drank uncontrollably until he passed out in his easy chair. Although this kind of family history would not cause anyone to become an alcoholic, it does increase the likelihood that a descendent of an alcoholic, (like John) could become an alcoholic as well.

Alcoholism as its dictionary definition, is a disorder that is characterized by an excessive dependence upon and craving for alcoholic beverages. This dependence affects every aspect of the alcoholic person’s life. Socially, personally, and professionally, it can lead to mental and physical harm to the person that is drinking and often to those around him or her. Many people consider alcoholism and alcohol abuse to be the same. However, a person who abuses alcohol does not crave alcohol or become dependent on it. The alcohol abuser usually just goes out and decides to drink so much that it results in poor judgment and social, legal, and professional consequences. Alcohol abuse that goes on for a long period of time often leads to alcoholism. Although people believe that alcohol abuse is a result of personal choice, there is enough evidence and research to suggest that alcohol abuse is in fact a result of heredity or at least proves that it is a major factor.

Most research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person sometimes lays out a pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. According to Dr. Rachel Adelson, “Alcoholism is not a hereditary condition… it is not inherited like the blue color of the eyes, physical features or other hereditary medical conditions but it is the result of personal choice.”(Adelson 2) It has never been completely proven that alcoholism is a direct result of heredity, and according to this, it may look as if alcoholism is just a chance that some people take. While alcohol has always been misused by some drinkers, it has proved to be beneficial to most. According to Adam Chafetz the Founding Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), "... alcohol has existed longer than all human memory. It has outlived generations, nations, epochs and ages. It is a part of us, and that is fortunate indeed. For although alcohol will always be the master of some, for most of us it will continue to be the servant of man."(Hanson 15)

Genetic risk to alcoholism is not destiny. More than half of all the children of alcoholics do not become alcoholics. A child of an alcoholic parent will not automatically develop alcoholism, and a person with no family history of alcoholism can become an alcohol dependent. Remember: Risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn't mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. By the same rule, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol.

According to Penn State, “Anyone who drinks alcohol can fall into the pattern of alcoholism. However, people who have a family history of alcohol abuse disorders are more likely to also have this disorder. Teens are at a higher risk for alcohol abuse because of the desire to get drunk.”(Penn State 1) A temporary excessive alcohol consumption, such as during year holidays, is considered masculinity sign. A real man is the one that can handle big amounts of alcohol. In opposition to the weak one, who either drinks small amount of alcohol or does not drink at all. In this way, the society accepts the alcohol drinking as long as it is “responsible” and unwillingly promotes the alcohol addict.

Underestimating the alcoholism negative effect, society helps the person facing an alcohol addiction to not see the real danger he is actually facing. Believe it or not, over 17.6 million people in the United States are alcoholics, according to the NIAAAs 2006 survey concerning alcohol abuse. (Adelson 1) In another survey stated that about 74% of alcoholics had parents or grandparents that were alcohol abusers. According to Wikipedia, about 18% of American adults have had an alcohol abuse problem at some time in their life, in addition to about 12% who have also had an alcohol dependence problem. The alcohol industry has as its aim to get into every home and thereby get more drinkers. According to Norman E. Fultz “already 55 % of such beverages sold in America today is sold in food stores to the housewife, and the drinking of beer alone has increased 28 % in five years”. (Fultz 2) More and more radio and TV advertising is being done as well as their campaign in magazines and newspapers. According to Medical News Today, nearly 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of alcohol abuse, and alcohol is a factor in more than half of the country's homicides, suicides, and traffic accidents. You cannot ignore statistics like these. Alcohol abuse also plays a role in social problems, from being fired from your job, to crime, and spousal and child abuse.

According to Dr. Amal Chakraburtty M.D.:

“The immediate physical effects of drinking alcohol range from mild mood changes to loss of coordination, vision, balance, memory, and speech. Any of which are signs of intoxication, or drunkenness. These effects usually wear off in a matter of hours after a person stops drinking. As of May 1, 2007, many law-enforcement agencies regard a .08 percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream as evidence of drinking. Larger amounts of blood alcohol can impair brain function, liver damage, and can cause unconsciousness. An extreme overdose, alcohol poisoning, can be fatal.” (Chakraburtty 1)

According to a study by the research group "Alcoholism and drug addiction", of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada), “although there are no specific reasons to become an alcoholic, many social, family, environmental, and genetic factors are a part of it.” (Ircles 1) Thanks to this study, researchers have shown that the lack of endorphins is hereditary, and thus that there is a genetic predisposition to become addicted to alcohol.
According to Wikipedia, beta-endorphins are a kind of "morphine" released by the brain in response to situations, like pain. In this way, beta-endorphins can be considered "drugs" to dull pains. According to Dr. José Rico Irles, head of the research group:

“Researchers have focused on the low beta-endorphin levels in alcohol abusers. This low beta-endorphin level determines whether someone may become an alcoholic or not. When a subjects' brain with low beta-endorphin levels gets used to the presence of an exogenous surplus, then, when its own production stops, a dependence starts on the external source: alcohol.” (Irles 1)

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse is a widespread problem throughout the world. According to current estimates of the National Institutes of Health, nearly 15 million Americans (1 in every 3 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. Approximately 53% of people in the U.S. report that one or more of their close relatives have a drinking problem.
Alcoholism has four symptoms: (as defined by Wikipedia)
 

Craving - a strong need or compulsion to drink
Lack of control - the inability to stop drinking
Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped
Tolerance - the need for increased amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.
 A person suffering from alcoholism will continue to drink despite the consequences, such as the loss of job or health problems.

Recent research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found that alcohol tends to run in families and that there may be a genetic trend to alcoholism. In addition, a person’s environment such as: influence of friends, stress levels, and the ease of getting alcohol, may influence the development of alcoholism.

However, this does not mean that children of alcoholic parents will automatically develop alcoholism. Other factors, such as social support and self-esteem may keep people from becoming alcoholics. No one can conclude that alcohol addiction is caused by specific factors that push the person into alcohol abuse. Alcohol addiction progress is determined by the individual character, emotions and behavior.

Read these two cartoons very carefully:

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Fig 1 Fig 2

In the first cartoon, a homeless man is offering another homeless man some money. Now, going to the stereotype that all homeless people are alcoholics, that if you give them money they will most likely go out and spend it on alcohol. This cartoon is funny because instead of giving him money for food he wants the other character to get some alcohol. This can be taken as a symbol of what society depicts alcoholics as; homeless, lost, no morals; that they only think about alcohol and that boozing up is all they do.  Now take a look at the second cartoon, this is a couple in a restaurant, ready to be seated and the waiter asks them if they want a ‘drinking’ or ‘passive drinking’ table. Now when people go to upper-class restaurants they may feel inclined to have maybe a glass of wine with their meal, this is not uncommon. It is however, considered rude and unmannerly to get totally plastered in the middle of a fine restaurant. The waiter asks this, why? People who would read this would assume, so the waiter could place the couple far away from the rest of the public if they said ‘drinking’. At first glance these are funny cartoons, but further analyzing of them depicts the message that getting drunk is rude, unmannerly, and unsightly.

Although some people may be more vulnerable to alcoholism than others because of heredity, it is still a result of personal choice to start drinking and if alcohol dependency is the result of that, than obviously there is going to be a problem. If society depicts alcoholism as a bad thing, then why do the media still promote drinking in movies, commercials, and newspapers? The same can be said about cigarettes. What should happen is either prevent the problem from arising or find ways of getting rid of the problem. A hardcore alcoholic, or even an alcoholic who is trying to quit is looked down on by society, while drinking is still being promoted to people who do not have a problem with drinking. It is not completely the alcoholics fault that they are what they are, people seem to lose sight of the fact that they could’ve had alcoholic parents or grandparents and do not even give them a chance to make it right. They figure it is a problem they will have for the rest of their lives. In the many cases of incidents involving drunk drivers, some are alcohol abusers, but some are alcoholics. Yes, it is bad to drive when you are drunk, but should alcoholics who have had alcoholic parents be shown more leniency if an incident occurred?

In conclusion, there is enough research conducted to suggest that alcohol abuse and alcoholism is in fact a result of heredity or at least proves that it is a major factor. Personal choice and the environment in which a person is brought up may also have something to do with the occurrence of alcoholism. Not only that, but social pressure and the desire to have the appearance of masculinity also have large effects on a person that may drive them to become an alcoholic. The study of alcoholism has shown three main things: it is getting more and more commonplace as people start drinking at a young age, it is more likely that a person with a family history of alcohol abuse will become an alcoholic than someone who does not, and it has no cure.  So why take the chance?...

 


Submitted: December 15, 2014

© Copyright 2021 John Moore. All rights reserved.

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