Alcoholism and Family History

If you have a parent, grandparent, or other close relative with alcoholism, you are at increased risk of having problems with alcohol. Many studies of children of alcoholics have found that they are about 4 times more likely to develop alcohol problems than people without a family history of alcoholism, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Many other factors affect your risk of alcohol use problems.  These include how your parents raised you, your friends, your stress level, and how available alcohol is to you.

Knowing that you’re at risk is important, though, because you can take steps to protect yourself.

Certain symptoms

According to the NIAAA, alcoholism is a disease that includes at least 3 of the following 4 symptoms:

1. Craving. A strong need or urge to drink.

2. Loss of control. Not being able to stop drinking or to control the results once drinking starts.

3. Physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, are experienced when you stop drinking.

4. Tolerance. The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol over time.

What to do

If you think you are at risk for alcohol problems, here are some steps from the NIAAA to help prevent it:

  • Avoid drinking at a young age. The risk for alcoholism is higher if you begin to drink at an early age. This is because of social factors and genes.

  • Drink moderately as an adult. You should approach even moderate drinking with caution because you may find it difficult to stay at that level. Better yet, avoid alcohol completely.

Seek help        

Talk with your healthcare provider or a substance-use counselor. Either one can recommend support groups or helpful organizations, or even treatment if needed.

If you’re an adult who already has begun to drink, your healthcare provider can assess your drinking. He or she can tell you if you need to cut back and advise you how to go about it.