Family History Alcoholism and Hangovers


It is widely accepted that people, with a family history of alcoholism, are themselves at a greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder than their peers, who do not have a similar background. People who have a family history of alcoholism are four times more likely to experience a problem with the substance, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). There are several reasons for the aforementioned case, including genetic factors and exposure to people who are responsible for one’s well-being having unhealthy relationships with the potentially deadly substance. It is easy to normalize things, even when one knows such behaviors are likely to be harmful.

So much of the person we grow up to be is rooted in how we are raised. In many cases, we learn how to process things that are difficult from our parents, especially regarding coping with the trials and tribulations of life. If a child sees a parent drink alcohol when they are upset about something, it can leave a lasting impression that can have serious repercussions down the road. One can equate alcohol with relief. Which, in some respect, that is a true statement; alcohol can ease one’s tension about a given situation. However, the use of alcohol to cope with challenges is a slippery slope leading to addiction.

Alcohol use prevention efforts have long focused on instilling young people with the facts about alcohol. Facts that may be the opposite of what they see at home. It is reality that can be very confusing. There is no guarantee that someone who comes from an alcoholic family will develop the same relationship with alcohol that their parents have established. But for those who do drink, it is vital that efforts be made to mitigate the risk of following in the footsteps of their mother and/or father. And, it turns out that hangovers could provide some insight.

What is hangover?

Rather than run through the myriad of theories and highly scientific markers that are likely to be what is behind a hangover resulting, it would be more useful to discuss the symptoms that can accompany the condition that most people who have drank too much are acutely familiar. The morning after somebody engages in heavy alcohol use, the alcohol has pretty much worked its way through one’s system. At which point, a number of uncomfortable symptoms occur—both physiological and psychological in nature.

Symptoms typically include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Concentration Problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Simply put, there is nothing fun about a hangover. Even after the physical symptoms dissipate, emotional distress can linger for some time. A long night of drinking, followed by serious regret. Alcoholics will usually push through a hangover by drinking more, commonly referred to as “hair of the dog.” Such behavior can be sign that you have a problem with alcohol, and potentially an alcohol use disorder.

Countless people in the grips of a hangover have vowed to never drink again, only to renege on what they believed to be a solemn oath to abstain. It turns out that reinforcing the memories of a hangover in people, who have alcoholism in the family tree, may impact the course they themselves eventually take with the substance.


Remembering a Hangover

New research has found that people from families where alcohol has been a problem are more likely to retain lucid and painful memories of hangovers, according to a press release from Keele University. The study, “Does familial risk for alcohol use disorder predict alcohol hangover?“, was published in the journal Psychopharmacology. Psychologist Dr Richard Stephens at Keele University said:

“Taken together with findings from prior research it appears that people who are predisposed to develop problem drinking are no more susceptible to developing a hangover after a night of alcohol than people who are not predisposed. However, we found that such people appear to remember their hangovers more lucidly. He adds, “It may be possible to exploit this lucid memory for hangovers to curb excessive drinking. Reminding problem drinkers of the negative consequences of incapacitating hangover, for example, letting down family members due to abandoned plans, may help them to manage their alcohol consumption.”

Getting more answers…

If you have more questions alcohol use disorder, we can help. The therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment process at the Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat is designed within a holistic, cognitively-oriented framework. It is facilitated through educational, task oriented and process groups. Introduction to the twelve-step program and philosophy is a component of treatment. Please contact us.