Alcoholism and Family History

If you have a parent or other close family member with a drinking problem, you are at a higher risk of having one, too. Many studies of children of alcoholics have found that they are about 4 times more likely to have trouble with alcohol than people without such a family history.

Many other things affect your risk of having a drinking problem. These are:

  • How your parents raised you

  • Your friends

  • Your stress level

  • Your access to alcohol

Knowing that you’re at risk is important. You can then take steps to protect yourself.

Certain symptoms

Experts consider alcoholism a disease. People with it have at least 3 of these symptoms:

1. Craving. You may have a strong need or urge to drink.

2. Loss of control. You may not be able to stop drinking or to control the results once you start drinking.

3. Physical dependence. When you stop drinking, you may have withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.

4. Tolerance. You may drink greater amounts of alcohol over time.

What to do

If you think you are at risk for an alcohol problem, here are some steps to help prevent it:

  • Don't drink at a young age. The risk for alcoholism is higher if you start 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 hard to stay at that level. Better yet, stay away from alcohol completely.

  • Be aware of your mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can sometimes lead people to self-medicate with alcohol. Talk to your provider if you feel anxious or depressed.

Get help        

Talk with your healthcare provider or a substance-use counselor. They can advise support groups or helpful organizations. You may even get treatment if needed.

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.