Can Alcoholism be Predicted?

Question: Can you tell if somebody is going to be an alcoholic? Is alcoholism, like other diseases, predictable?

Answer: James W. West, M.D. and author of The Betty Ford Center Book of Answers, says that while there may not be “absolute predictors,” there are “strong clues” as to whether or not a person will become an alcoholic.

For example,

  • Sons of alcoholics are at a much higher risk for developing alcoholism than sons of non-alcoholics.
  • People who demonstrate a low response to alcohol—those who can drink more than others without getting drunk—are also at increased risk.
  • Those “who can hold their liquor” also seem to have an increased capacity for drinking.
  • In the case of alcoholic parents who have identical twin children, the chances are high that if one twin develops alcoholism, the other will too.
  • Individuals who begin drinking at a young age are at a higher risk for developing alcohol dependence or abuse.

The above examples are due to genetic or environmental influences, but none of these are, as aforementioned, absolute.

Science cannot predict your initial choice, and in the end, it is your choice that makes the difference. Once the choice is made, the disease of addiction will take over your life–but that doesn’t mean you can’t get help.