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Genetics Of Alcoholism: Hereditary Factors Of Alcohol Use

As it relates to alcoholism, genes, environment and social interaction can all affect a person’s risk level for alcohol addiction. Still, there isn’t one specific alcoholic gene that makes a person addicted to alcohol. 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. When scientists debate whether alcohol use disorder is genetic or hereditary, they debate whether the condition stems from a larger set of genes that are passed down or if the disease stems from mutations in some genes. Alcohol abusers may drink to cope with symptoms of psychiatric conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and others. On the flip side, regular alcohol and drug abuse can cause side effects that mimic mental health disorders.

Is there a genetic gene for 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.

These are things that we can remain mindful of as we continue to develop an understanding of alcoholism on a personal basis. A study in Sweden followed alcohol use in twins who were adopted as children and reared apart. The incidence of alcoholism was slightly higher among people who were exposed to alcoholism only through their adoptive families. However, it was dramatically higher among the twins whose biological fathers were alcoholics, regardless of the presence of alcoholism in their adoptive families.

Genes vs. Environment

She said those larger samples of individuals with and without a diagnosis of alcohol dependence will be key to future discoveries about genetic contributions to alcoholism. Can children inherit genetic sober house materials from their parents that increase their vulnerability to alcohol? Because of a wide range of wild symptoms that blend into each other, recognizing a dual diagnosis can be difficult.

Through GWAS, Won added, researchers can identify regions in the genome that play roles in particular traits, compared to individuals who do not exhibit the trait. Yet, genome-wide studies cannot tell us much about how genes in those regions affect a trait. That’s because these regions are often in “non-coding” regions of the genome. The researchers also found that the genetic factors related to simply drinking alcohol were a little different from the genetic factors that contributed to alcohol dependence. In other words, at least at the genetic level, there’s a difference between simply drinking alcohol, even large amounts of alcohol, and becoming dependent on it.

Addiction Hotline

Among identical twins, their 23 chromosome pairs are exactly the same (i.e., identical twin are monozygotic). Fraternal twins do not have identical chromosome pairs; hence, they look different from each other. If addiction has a genetic basis, it would be expected that identical twins who carried the alcoholic gene or genes involved in addiction would similarly express them (though environmental factors can be involved). The University of Washington and the University of Queensland conducted a large-scale male and female twin study involving 5,889 participants.