The role of genetics in alcoholism

Alcoholism seems to be prevalent in some families. If your parents or grandparents are alcoholics, is there any scientific evidence that your genes might make you an alcoholic? Although many studies have been conducted and experts agree that there is a genetic link, genetics is not the only factor, and we are not sure about its full impact on alcoholism.

Is alcoholism inherited?

More and more scientific evidence shows that alcoholism is genetically related.According to data from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics than other children.However, environmental factors may also be a factor in many of these situations.

The genetic component of alcoholism

Family, twins, and adoption studies have shown that alcoholism must have genetic factors. In 1990, Blum et al. The association between the A1 allele of the DRD2 gene and alcoholism is proposed. The DRD2 gene is the first candidate gene shown to be related to alcoholism.

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A study conducted in Sweden tracked the drinking of twins who were adopted and raised separately as children. Among people exposed to alcoholism only through adoptive families, the incidence of alcoholism is slightly higher. However, regardless of whether the adoptive family has an alcohol problem, the proportion is much higher among twins whose biological father is an alcoholic.

Subsequent genetic studies tried to identify the exact genes related to alcoholism, but none of them reached conclusive results. Many genes have been identified, and they also play a role in risky behaviors related to alcohol abuse or dependence.Some are directly related, and some are only indirect.

Drosophila similarities

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are using fruit flies to find genetic causes of alcoholism. According to scientists, drunk fruit flies behave in the same way as humans when they are drunk. In addition, the resistance of fruit flies to alcohol seems to be controlled by the same molecular mechanisms as humans.

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Hugo Bellen, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said the study “lays the foundation for a genetic approach to analyze the acute and possible chronic effects of alcohol on people.”

Genetic sensitivity to alcohol

In another study, the scientists selectively bred two mouse strains: one that was not sensitive to alcohol, and the other that was genetically sensitive to alcohol. When exposed to the same amount of alcohol, the two strains exhibited significantly different behaviors.

Sensitive mice tend to lose control and pass out very quickly, earning them the nickname “sleeper”. “Short sleepers” are mice that are genetically less sensitive to alcohol. They seem to lose less inhibition and tolerate alcohol longer before passing out.

Alcohol abuse is affected by environmental and genetic factors

“Alcohol consumption is affected by a combination of environmental and genetic factors,” said Dr. Gene Erwin, professor of pharmacy at the CU School of Pharmacy. “This study shows that genetic factors play a greater role, and we’re trying to understand the power of these genetic factors.”

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If alcoholism can be traced to a specific gene or combination of genes, how can this information be used?

“These genes are for risk, not for fate,” emphasized Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He added that this research can help identify young people at risk of alcoholism and may lead to early prevention efforts.

For family members of alcoholics, this means that you don’t necessarily drink alcohol yourself. However, you are more likely to be dependent than others.

Genes only account for about half of your alcohol risk. Factors such as your environment and your ability to deal with situations that may trigger dependencies are equally important.As we continue to develop our understanding of alcoholism on a personal basis, we can continue to pay attention to these things.