Alcoholism Genetic Factors
Alcoholism Genetic Factors
Nature vs. Nurture is a debate that can apply to any psychological disorder. In most cases it is a combination of the two factors. Studies have shown that in the case of alcoholism and addiction, genetics almost certainly play a role. That is not to say environment is irrelevant, but it is apparent that some people are predisposed to developing alcoholism.
The evidence for the role of genetics in addiction comes from studies of identical twins in Sweden. Because adoption records are kept so meticulously there, researchers are able to see all of the cases in which identical twins were separated and adopted by two different families. Each set of twins was grouped into one of two categories, those who had a history of alcoholism in their families and those who did not. Because identical twins have the same genetic material, there was no need to isolate a specific gene or set of genes related to addiction. The lives of all of the twins were followed into adulthood in order to see those who struggled with addiction and those who did not.
If a twin with a history of alcoholism in his family was adopted by a family of non-drinkers, he still had a significant chance of developing alcoholism. This strongly supports the notion that family history plays a role in addiction because they became addicts without using the behavior of their adoptive parents as a template. Since they were predisposed to developing alcoholism, once they were exposed to it, they could not control their consumption and it became a driving force in their lives.
On the other hand, a twin without alcoholism in his family who was adopted by drinkers did have a higher chance of developing alcoholism than if they were adopted by non-drinkers, but the chances of this happening were significantly lower than those of twins with alcoholism in their families. This shows that environment does play some role in addiction. For example, it is not uncommon for the children of alcoholics to never pick up a drink because of the destruction they saw it cause. The traits one sees in others are often incorporated in one’s own personality, so certain behaviors can be adopted that lead to an alcoholic lifestyle.
The results of this study show that genetics does play a role in addiction and that certain people are predisposed to developing addiction or alcoholism. It also shows that the role of family history is larger than that of environment. Environment does have an effect on the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction, but genetics is most likely the largest contributing factor.
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