Study Links Genetic Factors to Increased Risk for Alcohol Dependence December 27th, 2018 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Study Links Genetic Factors to Increased Risk for Alcohol Dependence

Study Links Genetic Factors to Increased Risk for Alcohol Dependence

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New research indicates that alcohol dependency may have a lot to do with genetic factors. However, while your genes have a lot to do with your future, they don’t predetermine it. What does this new study say, and how can it influence the way that alcohol dependence is understood?

Alcohol Misuse Is Complex

Alcohol addiction is a serious disorder that not only impacts a person’s physical health but also his or her social and emotional circumstances. When you have an alcohol use disorder, you can deal with short- and long-term health problems. Your relationships and ability to work and manage your life could be compromised.

Alcohol dependence is complicated. It is not due to a personal failing, but rather due to an interaction between your genes and your environment. According to the Washington University School of Medicine, an international team of researchers identified a gene known to affect risk and determined that many other genes also contribute to risk for alcohol dependence. The genes of those who experience more typical drinking behaviors differ from the genes of those who are prone to alcohol misuse.

How Did the Study Work?

The study examined the genes of 15,000 people with alcohol dependence and compared them with 38,000 people without this diagnosis. The goal was to identify genetic factors that could contribute to this dependence. The study looked at data from 28 genetic studies of alcoholism in eight countries to provide a large bank of data and allow scientists to come to some conclusions about the genetic factors behind alcohol dependence. The overall consensus is that the effects of many different variants in the genome add up to produce the possibility of alcohol dependence.

The Connection Between Psychiatric Disorders and Alcohol Dependence

What genes are connected to alcohol dependence? It turns out that genetic factors that influence alcohol dependence are also associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and ADHD. These genes are also associated with the use of cigarettes and marijuana. Researchers are curious about why these disorders often occur with alcohol dependence. There are a few possibilities:

  • There is a shared genetic link between these disorders and alcohol misuse
  • When alcohol misuse comes first, it could lead to psychiatric disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders could lead to alcohol misuse

It is possible that there is a combination of factors that occur, including genetic factors.

Alcohol Processing Genes Also Play a Role

According to the study’s authors, different people process alcohol in different ways. These variations can mean the difference between alcohol dependence and freedom from misuse. One standout gene is called ADH1B, and it influences the way that the body converts alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde. Some gene variants make the conversion to acetaldehyde more rapid. This makes people less likely to drink to excess because they more rapidly experience the unpleasant side effects of drinking.

These genetic factors can help explain why some people seem to be more prone to alcohol dependence than others. The study also discovered that there seem to be different genes that regulate typical and problematic drinking. According to the research, “the genetic factors related to simply drinking alcohol were a little different from the genetic factors that contributed to alcohol dependence.”

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Genetic Factors Are Different in Different Populations

One unique part of this study was the focus on genetic diversity. Many studies have only examined people of European descent. This study also examined the genetic studies of people of African descent. It discovered that the same ADH1B gene was linked to an increased alcoholism risk both in people of European and African ancestry. But there were different variants of the gene in these populations, which altered the risk of developing alcoholism.

Genetic and Environmental Factors

If you have the genes for alcohol dependence, does this mean that you will misuse alcohol? It increases your risk, but it does not mean that your life is laid out for you and that you will ultimately become dependent on alcohol.

Many people have genes that lead them to challenging circumstances in their lives, and the genes for alcohol misuse are just one of these difficult genetic circumstances. You have the ability to determine what happens in your life to some extent, and you can make the choice to become sober with help from a treatment center. A positive treatment center can help you manage co-occurring disorders. A treatment facility can also help you develop strategies to abstain from alcohol since it is genetically easier for you to become dependent on this substance. Your genes do not have to determine your life path. You have a say in how you manage substances.

Options for Treatment

If you deal with an alcohol use disorder, you may be curious about alcohol addiction treatment options available to you at treatment facilities. These include:

  • Medical care to help you move through the initial withdrawal from alcohol
  • Support such as counseling and group therapy to create stronger strategies for eliminating alcohol dependence from your life
  • Support for those with dual diagnoses, so that you can work on managing your mental health as you work on the physical aspects of addiction
  • Intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that also incorporate alternative therapies such as art therapy
  • Ongoing care in the form of aftercare and sober housing to help you commit to your plans to stay sober for the long-term

At The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, medical professionals focus on helping you to improve your life and take alcohol out of the picture. If you are concerned that you might have an alcohol use disorder, connect with a facility representative. An admissions representative can speak with you about medical assistance, therapy and ongoing programs.  Contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.