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Alcoholism Genetics

Alcoholism Genetics

Alcoholism and mental health disorders also share many of the same environmental influences. Prevention and education programs can address this risk as part of regular medical checkups. To date, GWAS have
focused on common variants, with allele frequencies of 5% or higher. Most GWAS are case-control studies or studies of quantitative traits in
unrelated subjects, but family-based GWAS provide another approach. GWAS are
beginning to yield robust findings, although the experience in many diseases is
that very large numbers of subjects will be needed.

What genetics cause alcoholism?

There is no one “alcohol gene” that leads to the development of an alcohol use disorder. Researchers have found more than 400 locations in all the genetic information in an organism (genome) and at least 566 variants within these locations that could influence the extent that someone may suffer from alcohol abuse.

Therapy and social support components as offered in sober living housing, rehabilitation programs, AA meetings which use the 12 step program are a cornerstone in addiction treatment. If drinking alcohol makes you feel ill, you may be more likely to avoid alcohol in the first place, which can reduce the chances of developing alcohol use disorder. Genetics may play a role in alcohol use disorder (AUD), but other factors might also contribute to the development of this condition. It is easy to see these preventative measures on paper, and we understand they might not resonate until someone you know has developed a substance use disorder. With addiction, we always recommend being compassionate yet proactive and to seek alcohol addiction help immediately if the problems with alcohol in your family have progressed into a dangerous situation.

Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder

The genes involved are players in a variety of basic body function, such as cell-to-cell communications, the control of protein synthesis, cell-to-cell interactions, and regulation development. It may be that dysregulation in these areas makes a person vulnerable to alcohol or other drug abuse. That fact that the dysregulation or problems can be encoded in the genes means that parents can pass these genes on to their children who in turn pass them on to their children, and so on.

is it possible to be alcoholism is in genetics

The researchers found that the genetic risk factors related to alcohol dependence also were linked to risk for other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD and the use of cigarettes and marijuana. They plan to continue investigating those links between genetic susceptibility to alcohol dependence and risk for other types of psychiatric illness. Anecdotal evidence shows that alcohol misuse can result from genetic factors.


While genetics might also influence these issues, you don’t need a family history of alcoholism to struggle with one of these problems. In summary, it seems there are several reasons that alcohol abuse can run in families. These include both genetics and environmental factors, and possibly even a combination of the two. Several studies on children of alcoholics adopted by other families show that these children still have a higher likelihood of alcoholism.

  • It’s important to note, however, that having one or multiple family members with AUD doesn’t mean you, or your children, are going to struggle with alcohol use and abuse as well.
  • However, there are few long-term studies that have conclusively linked specific genetic traits to humans who struggle with AUD.
  • The unpleasant symptoms of drinking “protects” them from consuming too much alcohol.
  • Interestingly, in the United States, family wealth is also a significant factor.

When alcohol wears off, the crash can include depressed moods while the brain struggles to reestablish a chemical balance without alcohol’s impact. If you produce fewer endorphins naturally, it can make it harder for you to feel happy without alcohol and, therefore, increases the desire to drink bigger quantities more often. This compounds the risk of problematic drinking, alcohol dependence, and addiction. A lack of naturally occurring endorphins is hereditary and can contribute to alcoholism. A person with a genetic disease has an abnormality in their genome; an individual with a hereditary disease has received a genetic mutation from their parents’ DNA.

Genetic predisposition to alcohol use disorder

The drawback to this approach is
that linkage studies find broad regions of the genome, often containing many
hundreds of genes. In many cases, the initial linkage studies were followed by more
detailed genetic analyses employing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were
genotyped at high density across the linked regions. Some of the genes identified
through this approach have been replicated across a number of studies and appear to
be robust genetic findings. A tendency for higher alcohol consumption often correlates with alcohol dependency but, biologically, these two facets of the disease are controlled by different gene sets. In even simpler terms, some genes influence the amount of alcohol a person is likely to consume, while other genes influence the likelihood that a dependency will develop. In theory, a person can have AUD even if they possess genes that predispose them to drink moderately as long as they also possess genes that predispose them to lose control of alcohol consumption easily.

People with enzyme variants that allow for the fast buildup of acetaldehyde from alcohol (ethanol) are at less risk for addiction compared to those who metabolize alcohol efficiently to acetate. This is because people with acetaldehyde buildup are more likely to have troublesome reactions. They would experience nausea, flushing, and rapid heartbeat even with moderate amounts of liquor.

Genes vs. Environment

Some mental health conditions may be a risk factor for developing alcohol use disorder, including clinical depression and schizophrenia, which also have a genetic component. It is estimated that while there are over a dozen genes that contribute to a tendency towards alcohol abuse, each on its own shows a limited correlation to alcoholism without environmental stressors. Therefore, the more genes present, the higher the likelihood of developing is alcohol abuse hereditary AUD, and thus we can infer that genetics do play some role. When it comes down to it, the environmental elements of growing up with an alcoholic parent are just as impactful, if not more, than genetic predisposition. Each individual risk factor added to a childhood household (including lack of parental supervision, unchecked aggressive behavior, and availability of alcohol) can contribute to an increase in the likelihood of substance abuse.

A key aspect of the new study is that it included genetic data from people of European (46,568) and African (6,280) ancestry. Although the same ADH1B gene was linked to alcoholism risk both in people of European ancestry and African ancestry, the researchers found that different variants in the gene altered risk in the two populations. Other research has revealed that the same variation in the same gene as occurs in Europeans also influences risk in people of Asian descent, but that data was not included in this study. In other words, psychology and home environment likely have a significant impact on how alcoholism is passed down through families.

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