Biological Causes of Alcoholism: The Genes That Hold the Influence

causes of alcoholism

Recent studies show that genetics is one of the leading causes of alcoholism

Can a harmless drink at the bar with friends turn into a much bigger problem? Is alcohol altering key functions in our brain? What’s the science behind all of this?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is often a misunderstood disease. There are many stigmas that surround alcohol abuse but more often than not it is because folks don’t take the time to learn the facts.

Maybe you’re looking for answers so that you can try helping a loved one. Maybe you just want to educate yourself.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes of alcoholism.

It’s all about the dopamine

Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that plays a key role in the internal reward system that drives learning from behavior. It is commonly known as the “pleasure chemical.”

You know Pavlov? The guy with the dogs?

A dopamine surge is what clued the dogs in that they were being rewarded for their behavior. They would repeat said behavior to feel that rush of excitement from their reward once again.

Dopamine also plays a large role in addictive behaviors and is likely one of the leading causes of alcoholism.

The proof is in the mice

Through a study conducted on mice, researchers learned that there are particular areas in the genetic code that were linked to the preference of alcohol.

Some genes that were associated are those that had a linkage to memory formation and reward behavior.  This circles back to the dopamine factor.

This research also helps conclude that a single gene isn’t one of the causes of alcoholism; there are several.

Additionally, scientists learned that when blocking dopamine (or D1) receptors with certain drugs, the mice were less likely to consume alcohol.  This could be a great big step in the battle again alcoholism.

Of course, mice are not identical to human beings but this is a step in the right direction when it comes to figuring out the root causes of alcoholism.

Inside the brain of an alcoholic

Often those battling alcoholism will be destroying everything in their path and not seem to have a care in the world. This is heartbreaking and frustrating to those around them constantly wondering why they just can’t see the damage they are causing.

Currently, we do not have a very clear map of the inner workings of the mind of an addict.

Scientists are closer than they have ever been and are continuing to learn more about addiction and the brain.

When it’s time to seek help

Unfortunately, more often than not, the will to stop drinking does not come naturally to someone suffering from addiction.

Inpatient alcohol rehab can be life changing for many individuals.  It can be a place to focus on recovery in a stable and sober environment.

Please contact us if you want to learn more about what we do.


Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.

Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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