Alcohol and Genetics: A Cocktail for Brain Diseases?

Studies reveal that there is a connection between alcohol consumption and genetics that can lead to certain brain disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more. However, finding whether alcohol is the direct source of onset, or whether it is influenced more by our genes depends on varying factors.

Some drink and never experience any complications within the brain, while others drink and develop brain disorders. We know that drinking damages our brain but to what extent can alcohol have an effect on the long term health of our brains? 


There Is Certainly a Link Between Brain Diseases and Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol abuse over a long period of time can cause brain damage. When we drink, the blood vessels in our brains swell, which in turn creates headaches, causing what is known as a hangover.

In addition, alcohol affects the frontal lobes which are responsible for thought, memory, and judgment. Over time, this leads to brain damage which can lead to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and a number of other brain-related diseases. However, trying to find a definitive answer as to if alcohol is the direct culprit can be tricky, to say the least. 


Level of Risk Factors (Alcohol)

  • Moderate drinking is less likely to have a substantial impact on the brain or development of dementia (long term). 
  • Binge drinking, or if you consume more than 3 drinks on a regular basis, you are at more risk. However, while binge drinking causes higher risk, there are many other factors to consider when determining what kind of impact alcohol will have on the brain.  
  • Dependency: The highest risk factor is if a person has become dependent on alcohol. This includes high consumption and blackouts repeated over a period of time. Studies show that this level of drinking can cause irreversible damage to the brain including destroying neurons, cells, and causing shrinkage. 



  • Is genetics the missing link? The idea of alcohol-related brain disease might hinge on our genetics. Our genes tell us a lot about ourselves, they lend insight as to whether we will have blue or brown eyes if we will embody certain traits, and whether or not we are prone/likely to develop certain diseases. 
  • Predisposition: The effects of alcohol vary from person to person. If your family has a history of dementia you might be predisposed to certain brain diseases yourself and therefore wouldn’t want to drink alcohol. Studies have shown that in a patient predisposed to said disease, alcohol increased their risk up to 50 percent. 
  • Lottery: Genetics is also a lottery and the outcomes are based upon whether or not certain things we do to our bodies, like what we eat or drink, if we smoke, etc., will mutate our genes to develop the said disorder. This is why between two siblings one can have dementia and the other one won’t.  



Pre-Existing Brain Disease

These risks are close to the risks of being predisposed. However, if you are already suffering from a brain disorder, you do not want to drink at all. Think of this as a double negative. We know that alcohol affects the brain negatively and there is no scenario to suggest otherwise, therefore drinking will further perpetuate the advancement of any disorder. 


Err on the Side of Caution

  • DNA: You always want to take everything seriously by educating yourself about your family history. You might even want to take a DNA test to further explore your family’s health history. 
  • Honesty: You also always want to exhibit honesty by monitoring your habits to assess whether or not you are drinking too much. Have you seen another family member struggle with a brain disease? In being honest, you can then begin to make better choices.
  • Treatment: If you find that you are at a point where exercising control is no longer an option, it is time to seek help. The sooner you act, the more damage you can prevent. 


So, Do Genetics and Alcohol Cause Brain Disease? 

Studies support that the answer points closer to yes. Alcohol is a damaging toxin that not only causes harm to the brain but irreversible damage, too. Genes, as mentioned, are a lottery, though, our choices and habits can greatly influence how genes mutate. It all comes down to educating yourself and practicing moderation, or better yet, abstinence


Since science keeps evolving, so should our practices. True Recovery believes in a cause that is backed with the best information available. If you think that you might have an early onset disease because of substance abuse, seek help. For more questions regarding your mental wellbeing please call us at (866) 399-6528