Genetics and Alcoholism: Whats the Connection?

With the advent of microarrays that can measure hundreds of thousands tomillions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the genome,genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have provided a relatively unbiased wayto identify specific genes that contribute to a phenotype. To date, GWAS havefocused on common variants, with allele frequencies of 5% or higher.Most GWAS are case-control studies or studies of quantitative traits inunrelated subjects, but family-based GWAS provide another approach. GWAS arebeginning to yield robust findings, although the experience in many diseases isthat very large numbers of subjects will be needed. To date, individual GWASstudies on alcohol dependence and related phenotypes have been relatively modestin size, and most do not reach genome-wide significance.

  1. They may increase the overall risk by increasing drinking, orreduce risk by reducing drinking.
  2. 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.
  3. Our hereditary behaviors interact with our environment to form the basis of our decisions.
  4. Your genetics don’t only increase your risk of AUD — they may have protective elements as well.
  5. This review integrates insights obtained from different model systems as well as human population studies to provide a comprehensive overview of the genetic factors that mediate sensitivity to alcohol.

Among the behavioral traits parents can pass on to their children is a predisposition toward alcohol abuse and addiction. As one 2015 article in Nature points out, researchers have not been able to identify a single gene that determines whether or not you develop an addiction. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) are using fruit flies home remedies for opiate withdrawal to find the genetic causes of alcoholism. According to scientists, drunken drosophila fruit flies behave the same way humans do when they are drunk. In addition, a fruit fly’s resistance to alcohol appears to be controlled by the same molecular mechanism as humans. A study in Sweden followed alcohol use in twins who were adopted as children and reared apart.

Recent advances in genetic studies of alcohol use disorders

There are many cases of AUDs running in families from one generation to the next, or ones that are potentially genetic but not hereditary. According to information published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, research shows cbt and dbt in alcohol addiction treatment that your genetic makeup accounts for approximately 50% of the likelihood that you will develop an AUD. By staying informed, seeking alcohol treatment when necessary, and leveraging resources from institutions like the NIAAA, individuals can chart a path toward recovery and resilience.

Twin studies show that 70% of women and 50% of men can go their own way, even if they share identical genes and struggle with alcoholism. Neuroscience offers a window into the brain’s workings, shedding light on why some individuals might be more prone to alcohol misuse. The genetics of alcohol use disorder isn’t just about the genes we inherit but also about how they interact with our brain’s structures and functions. Researchers from the IU Alcohol Research Center used animal models to explore the genetics of alcohol use disorder. Analyzing 3 billion DNA base pairs across 70 animals, they identified genes linked to drinking behaviors. But while genetics influence our likelihood of developing alcoholism, it’s more complex.

Mental illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia, are more common in people with a family history of these disorders. People with mental illness have a higher risk of turning to substance abuse as a way of coping. Mental disorders can be hereditary (and environmental), which partially illuminates the complex link between genetics and addiction. Epigenetic modifications are becoming increasingly appreciated as important contributors to the effects of alcohol on regulation of gene expression. Epigenetic modifications have been implicated especially in studies on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (Perkins et al. 2013; Resendiz et al. 2013). Epigenetic alterations include DNA methylation and histone modifications, both of which remodel chromatin structure and, thereby, influence gene expression.

Genetics of alcohol-associated diseases

Your genes may predispose you to it, but you don’t have to let it define or dictate your choices. These findings suggest that it’s not just a single gene defect but a combination of genes that predispose individuals to alcoholism. About half of your susceptibility to developing a substance use disorder (SUD) can be hereditary. Genetics can mark you as more prone to use alcohol, tobacco products or drugs such as cocaine, heroin and opioids.

What Can Lead to Alcoholism?

NIAAA has funded the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) since 1989, with the goal of identifying the specific genes that influence alcohol use disorder. In addition, NIAAA funds investigators’ research in this important field, and also has an in-house research emphasis on the interaction of genes and the environment. NIAAA is committed to learning more about how genes affect AUD so that treatment—and prevention efforts—can continue to be developed and improved.

Information about the underlying genetic factors that influence risk to AUD can be derived from multiple levels of AUD including amounts of drinks (Alcohol consumption), severity and symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence. Commonly, genome wide association studies (GWAS) of alcoholism have focused on phenotypes based on the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)[14]. In the 4th edition of the DSM (DSM-IV), alcohol dependence (AD) and abuse were considered as mutually exclusive diagnoses that together made up AUDs.

Other genes that also have been identified encode components of the neurotransmitter systems using dopamine, endogenous opioids, serotonin, and acetylcholine; nicotinic receptors; and a hormonal system known as the hypothalamic–pituitary axis. 1 This means that the samples of case and control subjects may not be sufficiently matched with respect to such factors as ethnicity or other population characteristics, which influence the prevalence of many gene variants or other factors that also may influence alcoholism risk. “Using genomics, we can create a data-driven pipeline to prioritize existing medications for further study and improve chances of discovering new treatments. In 2021, more than 46 million people in the United States aged 12 or older had at least one substance use disorder, and only 6.3% had received treatment. Moreover, people who use drugs are facing an increasingly dangerous drug supply, now often tainted with fentanyl. Approximately 107,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and 37% of these deaths involved simultaneous exposure to both opioids and stimulant drugs.

Leave a Comment