Does alcoholism run in the family?, begins by proclaiming that 60% of alcoholics have at least on alcoholic parent. Given this number, the question is then raised as to whether the “disease” is caused by “wayward genes or lost dreams.” Though claimed as a mystery, the article foreshadows an answer by stating that studies say both sides may be right.
The article states that investigators have concluded that there are two types of alcoholics among men – those with beginnings to alcohol abuse before the age of 25, and those whose disease progresses at later periods in life. Of these two types, those with the early beginnings are more inclined to have incidence of family related alcoholism, which suggests a genetic predisposition. Astonishingly, this particular group is stated to comprise 40% of the estimated million male alcoholics in the United States.
Not surprising however, this group is most commonly associated with violent behavior. On the other end of the scale, the men who have shown to become alcoholic later in life show a commonality of less family involvement. Their abuse is attributed more to a sought relief from stress and/or anxiety.
Given these results, and the possibility of genetic predispositions, many research studies have been conducted in an effort to single out a common chromosomal defect. Fingers have been pointed at a gene which affects the ability of brain cells to respond to dopamine, which is believed to be a reason that alcoholics abuse alcohol – an unaware effort to boost dopamine levels. Other beliefs sway toward what is called a “mean gene” that impairs the proper actions of serotonin, a chemical stimulant in the brain.
As these studies and the researchers who have concluded them debate about the actual culprit, a recent opinion has been declared by Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D. who is the head of the National Institute of Mental Health. Per the article, Goodwin states that there may be more than one single gene involved with alcoholism, much the same as with diabetes. Goodwin also believes that future research may conclude a common genetic predisposition to a complete host of addictions of any range. In sum, Goodwin believes there may be a common thread among all addicts, but that specific characteristics may perpetuate certain cases.
Pertaining to psychology, this article is a fantastic way of raising the questions of psychological issues in addiction. It contradicts the actuality that alcoholism, or addiction altogether, is strictly a sect of the psyche which can be overcome through psychological treatment. This article gives simple, yet concise examples and statistics which proclaim the possibility of hereditary predispositions to alcohol addiction, thus ruling out a strong possibility of psychological defect.
Though it could be argued that a psychological predisposition could be genetically evident, the concepts of hereditary factors appear to be more supportive of genetic makeup and not learned behavior, which is a common belief toward alcoholism in European societies.
This article is very informative of the most recent approaches toward the diagnostics of alcoholism, and as to where the modern understandings of its illness are derived. In conclusive reaction, this particular article is educational to those who are both aware of the dynamics and characteristics of alcoholics and those completely ignorant of the issue. I am pleased with its content, directive, and overall conveyance of matter.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The PT Staff; Psychology Today – Is It In the Genes? Driven to drink: Does alcoholism run in the family? Sussex Publishers, LLC 2006