(See Section below for answers.)
This is a controversial topic. Some researchers believe the study data showing a 20% less risk of cardiovascular mortality from moderate alcohol use is flawed. It is possible that this decreased risk is due to other factors. When these other factors are controlled for, such as medical illness, exercise, where one lives, tobacco use, and socioeconomic factors, other studies find that the 20% drop is no longer evident. Given the controversy, the medical community does not recommend a person start drinking just to improve one’s health.
In high enough concentrations, alcohol can cause changes in neuronal cell structure and function, and thus impact how cells communicate with each other. It has also been shown to prevent neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells) in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for new memory formation). Alcohol also causes brain cell death. However, it is not yet clear exactly what circumstances need to exist for this to occur, and those circumstances probably differ from person to person. For some people, it may only depend on the degree and duration of blood alcohol concentration, but others may need other co-existing factors like vitamin deficiencies, poor nutrition, and a certain time period in life of exposure (ie. in utero/fetal stage, childhood). Because alcohol causes massive brain cell death in the fetus due to drinking during pregnancy, it is thought that alcohol, in high enough concentrations, can also cause disruptions in the developing brain of children. It has not been proven that alcohol causes brain cell death in an otherwise healthy adult consuming low to moderate amounts of alcohol.
Adopted children of (biological) alcoholic parents still maintain a higher risk of developing alcoholism even if they are raised by parents who do not use alcohol. This risk can be 300% to 400% greater than baseline variable risk.
Each twin from either set has the same risk of alcoholism, generally speaking, given that they all have the same risk of inheriting “at risk” genes.
Since monozygotic twins carry an identical set of genes, the risk that John will develop alcoholism is greater than Sarah’s risk. In addition, male monozygotic twins carry a higher risk that both twins will have alcoholism (50% concordance) than female monozygotic twins (30% concordance).
Among dizygotic twins, male twins carry a concordance rate of 33% while female dizygotic twins have a risk of 16%.
Punishment is a term used in operant conditioning to refer to any change that occurs after a behavior that reduces the likelihood that that behavior will occur again in the future. Antabuse is a medication that causes a person to become sick with nausea, flushing, palpitations, sweating, vomiting, and weakness about 10 to 30 minutes after drinking.
Though many traits are associated with higher risk of alcoholism, impulsivity is the most highly associated of the options listed.
Alcohol and the Developing Brain: Why Neurons Die and How Survivors Change; Alberto Granato, Benjamin Dering
Benefits and Risks of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Disease: Current Findings and Controversies; GemmaChivaBlanch et al
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association. 2013