This concept of alcoholism being a disease is a little hazy and inadequate for some as Cooney points out ‘in effect one is giving an alcoholic a license to drink’ (Cooney J.G, 2002, 1)  Alcoholism like many topics within psychology is divided by the nature versus nurture debate there are people that believe that alcohol is a disease inherited from the sufferers ancestors and there are those that believe that alcoholism is learned from the environment. At the beginning of research into the topic of alcoholism the focus was very much kept on the environment side however now the aetiology of alcoholism is moving away from this and more and more research is being carried out concerning genetics. Many of the studies investigating alcoholism have therefore been conducted within families with histories of alcoholism.
Cotton (1979)  reviewed 36 studies were the results had concluded that those who drunk excessively were more likely to produce offspring with alcohol problems. Using the data from these studies and comparing them with figures from the general population it was found that offspring of people with alcohol problem were more than twice as likely suggesting that alcoholism may indeed be genetic however this does not rule out the possibility of environmental influences, often alcoholism causes broken families, which are highly stressful, many people drink to alleviate stress and this may be the cause rather than genetics. Due to the fact that they are so similar genetically many studies have been carried out on twins.
Cadoret (1990)  reviewed many twin studies from seven different countries including a study Hrubek and Omenn (1981)  carried out in Sweden, on looking at the studies it was found higher concordance rates in monozygotic twins, than dizygotic twins. This is highly significant as monozygotic twins are more genetically similar than dizygotic twins and therefore if alcoholism is genetic we would expect more cases in which both monozygotic twins to be alcoholics than both dizygotic twins.
This review included many countries making it cross-cultural, and also controlling to a certain extent for cultural differences. Even though the results are very promising we have to remember that often the bond between monozygotic twins is greater than that of dizygotic and monozygotic twins spend more time together meaning that they have more shared environments than dizygotic twins. This is why psychologists and scientists alike are keen to find twins who have been adopted and reared apart, studies have been carried out on this kind of sample and the same thing was found monozygotic twins reared apart were more likely to develop alcoholism than dizygotic twins are. Another criticism of the twin studies is that a lot of the studies were carried out on males and research carried out on females has not had the same results.
It is believed by many that the main causes of alcoholism are cultural, socio-economic and other environmental factors such as taxes on alcoholic beverages and exposure to alcohol in the way of alcohol advertisements. France, a country where the production of alcohol is vast and alcohol is not heavily frowned upon has a higher rate of alcohol abuse than Italy; a country similar in culture apart from the fact that alcohol is frowned upon.
In contrast to this it has been suggested ‘While environmental factors, such as the ease of obtaining alcohol, TV commercials and billboards advertising alcohol will not make someone an alcoholic who is not prone to it, it may encourage or trigger underage drinking, binge drinking and other problem drinking.’  Even though all the studies aforementioned suggest that alcoholism is genetic, they still remain a suggestion rather than evidence, as no mechanisms for genetic transmission have been found. This brings me into studies that have shown differences in the way in which the body copes with alcoholism
The American Heritage(r) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright (c) 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. T his article was reviewed on 01/13/03, by Simeon Margolis, M.D.,Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology and Biologic Chemistry, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. http://www.healthatoz.com/healthatoz/Atoz/dc/caz/suba/alco/envir.html
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