Recent research from Indiana University has shed light on the significant role genes play in the development of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). The study, led by Feng Zhou, Ph.D., professor emeritus of anatomy, cell biology, and physiology at IU School of Medicine, discovered that altering a group of genes known to influence neuronal plasticity and pain perceptions is linked to AUDs. An experiment using rats at Linköping University in Sweden discovered that those with reduced expression of the gene GAT-3 become addicted to alcohol. This brain chemical that’s widely thought to be involved in alcohol dependence. Furthermore, in collaboration with a co-author from the University of Texas, the researchers took brain samples of deceased people who suffered from alcohol use disorder. A 2008 study performed at the University of Colorado investigated the genetic pathways that affected alcohol drinking behaviors.

But people in high-stress work environments are more likely to consume alcohol heavily than those who don’t. If you’re already struggling with your alcohol consumption, there are new ways of cutting back or quitting without putting your life on hold. Ria Health is one online program that gives you access to medications, medical support, coaching, and digital tools, all from an app on your smartphone. Anybody can develop an SUD, and they can do it for any number of reasons in their life. The genetic connection to addiction comes through inherited levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter made in your brain. Disease can be woven into your DNA — and that includes the disease of drug addiction.

Candidate gene studies of AUD and related traits

Those who have a family history of alcoholism have a higher risk of developing a drinking problem. Majority of genomic data for large alcohol consumption and AUD meta-analysis was either from UKBiobank or from Million Veterans Project. Several other cohorts from dbGAP also contributed to large sample size of alcohol consumption GWAS by Liu Genetics of Alcoholism et al, 2019. Genome-wide data on 14,904 DSM-IV diagnosed AD individuals and 37,944 controls from 28 case/control and family-based studies were meta-analyzed for PGC’s AD GWAS. Research has suggested that it’s a combination of the above risk factors as well as genetics that could determine whether or not you develop alcohol use disorder.

is alcoholism genetic or hereditary

These findings will further our understanding of the genetic etiology of AUD, and will also promote the advancement of “Post-GWAS” approaches seeking to better understand the mechanisms through which genetic variation leads to increased AUD risk. It is hoped that such information will ultimately lead to improved prevention and treatment efforts. As we have learned more about the role genes play in our health, researchers have discovered that different factors can alter the expression of our genes. Scientists are learning more and more about how epigenetics can affect our risk for developing AUD. Alcoholism isn’t only genetics although it ties into your family in many ways! You’re more at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder if your family history of alcohol is potent and people around you suffer from alcohol ingestion.

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

The earliest genes were
typically identified as a result of family-based analyses. In most cases, studies
recruited families having multiple members with alcohol dependence; such families
are likely to segregate variants that affect the risk of alcohol dependence. The
most common initial approach was linkage analysis, in which markers throughout the
genome were measured to identify chromosomal regions that appeared to segregate with
disease across many families. Linkage studies are relatively robust to population
differences in allele frequencies (because they test within-family inheritance), and
can find a signal even if different variants in the same gene or region are
responsible for the risk in different families.

Recognizing alcoholism as a disease promotes early intervention, access to appropriate healthcare services, and ongoing support for people struggling with AUD. While alcohol addiction isn’t entirely preventable, specific measures can reduce its risk. The environment in which people live and work heavily affects their attitudes and drinking behaviors.

Addressing Alcoholism: Prevention and Treatment

In other words, psychology and home environment likely have a significant impact on how alcoholism is passed down through families. Although it can be hard to separate the different causes from each other, there is solid evidence that genes play a role. Other studies on children of alcoholics have found links between having an alcoholic parent, and problems like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. There are also countless environmental factors (work, stress, relationships) that may lead to alcoholism.

is alcoholism genetic or hereditary

Research using family, adoption, and twin studies was the first to demonstrate the role of genetics in AUD. The Australian twin-family study of alcohol use disorder (OZALC) found a greater concordance of alcohol dependence in monozygotic (56% for males) compared to dizygotic twins (33% for males) and a heritability estimate of 64% (Heath et al., 1997). More recent twin studies have established that AUD heritability ranges from 40% to 70% (Enoch and Goldman, 2001; Agrawal and Lynskey, 2008; Kendler et al., 2012) , with similar heritability estimates in both males and females (Heath et al., 1997; Prescott et al., 1999).

Is Alcoholism Genetic? Making the Right Choice About Drinking Is Key.

Recent investigations of the intersection of AUD with epidemiological factors and comorbid psychiatric disorders indicate the high and rising prevalence of AUD in the United States. Furthermore, AUD frequently co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders (Regier et al., 1990), post-traumatic stress disorder (Sampson et al., 2015), and other substance use disorders (Kessler et al., 1997). These data highlight the heterogeneity of AUD and overlap with other psychiatric disorder that often also have strong genetic heritability estimates. Although genes and family history seem to play a significant role in alcohol addiction, they are far from the only factors. Alcohol use disorder ultimately develops from an interaction between alcohol and your brain chemistry.

  • Ethanol is metabolized largely in the liver by alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) to the toxic acetaldehyde which is then converted to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH), primarily by the mitochondrial enzyme ALDH2.
  • It is hoped that such information will ultimately lead to improved prevention and treatment efforts.
  • The link between genotype and phenotype is likely also confounded by multidimensional gene-gene interactions, the magnitudes of which depend on allele frequencies (Mackay 2014).
  • Further, most clinical trials and behavioral studies have focused on individual substances, rather than addiction more broadly.
  • Researchers from the IU Alcohol Research Center used animal models to explore the genetics of alcohol use disorder.

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