Genes may play a role in Alcohol dependency, research finds

There are some other factors, but a research says that certain genes make drinking alcohol a pleasant or unpleasant experience. A gene which regulates how speedily the body metabolizes alcohol plays a role in risk for alcohol dependence.

It is not the only cause in risk of alcoholism. Environment, culture, and other genes also play a significant part, researchers say. However, the discoveries could help develop novel treatments for the disease.

“We are influenced by environment, nurture, neighborhood, or the community which surrounds you,” Dr. Michael Genovese said. He is a chief medical officer of addiction and mental health treatment provider Acadia Healthcare. “People can have a hereditary susceptibility to the dependence of alcohol. Therefore, it often coincides with the susceptibility to other mental health situations.”

“At the same time,” he added, “frequent exposure to alcohol drinking and misuse can affect drinking behaviors later in life. Continuous genetic study is critical as it can remove the guesswork. And aid with the identification, inhibition, and personalized treatment of a disorder caused by the substance.”

A research was conducted in the Substance Use Disorders working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Researchers compared the genomes of 15,000 individuals who were diagnosed with alcohol dependency with that of 38,000 people, not alcohol dependent.

They observed that some of the participants were carrying the ADH1B variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) gene. This gene regulates how the body changes alcohol to acetaldehyde. Researchers found that such individuals were more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who lacked this variant. ADH1B considerably decreases the alcohol clearance rate from the liver.

But participants with ADH1B*2, another variant of the ADH gene, speedily process alcohol. Thus, elevating the levels of acetaldehyde, which is an alcohol metabolite that causes hangovers.

Genetics and alcohol dependence

Gene variants ALDH1A1*2 and ALDH1A1*3, frequently found in African-Americans. These variants also have been linked with a high chance of alcoholism, according to Dr. Indra Cidambi. He is a psychiatrist and addiction medicine expert, as well as the founder of the Center for Network Therapy.

Conversely, earlier researches have shown that people carrying the ADH1B*2 gene variant, comprising many individuals of Asian descent, are at reduced chance of alcohol dependence. Probably due to the unpleasant effects of acetaldehyde linked to alcoholism.

The new research included genomic data from people of African and European ancestry. The same ADH1B gene was associated with alcoholism risk in both populations but in dissimilar variants.

“Genetic dissimilarities in these enzymes describes why certain ethnic groups have lesser alcohol-related problems,” Cidambi said. Those carrying ADH1B gene experience less hostile side effects. It is because of their slower alcohol metabolism, which could explain their elevated risk.

“The sturdy ‘Asian flushing’ reaction, that comprises rapid heartbeat, nausea, and other hostile feelings, tends to drop drinking,” Arpana Agrawal said. She is a Ph.D. scientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“The main contributor to that response is a variant in aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). It greatly reduces the elimination of the aversive acetaldehyde. Many persons in Asian populations have that variant, along with one of the protective variants in ADH1B.

ADHIB speeds the alcohol processing. These variants in the metabolism of alcohol have the best-documented influence on risk for alcoholism.”

Implications for treatment

Disulfiram (Antabuse) is the first approved drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is basically used for the treatment of alcohol dependence. It works by disturbing the acetaldehyde metabolism into acetic acid which is harmless. This disturbance causes many unpleasant effects when alcohol is consumed.

Genes can also play an important role in the efficiency of the drug naltrexone. It is used to prevent relapse to drinking among individuals who abuse alcohol.

The drug may work in some, but not all, people with alcohol dependence, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Other genes may be involved

The new research also discovered that some other genes may also contribute to the risk of alcohol dependence.

“This risk conferred by the ADH1B is one of the strongest single-gene effects found in individuals with a psychiatric disease. But generally, it describes only a small proportion of the risk,” said Agrawal.

“This gene has a protective effect. But by no ways is it the only thing which affects the risk of alcohol dependence,” added Agrawal. “As we know that environmental factors also play an important role. We also consider the inherited susceptibility to alcohol dependence stems from the small, collective effects of a large number of variants across the genome.”

NIAAA has funded the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) since 1989 for the isolation of the genes involved in alcohol use conditions. NIAAA guesses that these genes are responsible for almost half of the risk for alcoholism.

Some genetic factors linked with the disorder also seem to be connected to some other conditions. Like schizophrenia, ADHD, depression, and the use of marijuana and cigarettes, according to the new research.

Researchers also observed that the genetic factors which influence whether people drank or refrained from alcohol use were somehow different from those who were involved in risk of alcohol dependence. Agrawal and her team surveyed data from 28 preceding studies of alcoholism. According to her, a larger study is compulsory to broaden understanding of genetics role in alcoholism.

“As we examine further alcohol-dependent individuals, we should try to find additional genomic regions affecting alcohol dependence,” said Raymond Walters. He is a Ph.D., the first author of the study and a post-doctoral research fellow at the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
According to NIAAA, around 1 in 8 people in the U.S are alcohol dependent.

Are you at risk of becoming an alcoholic?

Individuals with a history of alcoholism in their family have the utmost chance of becoming alcoholics. If more than one of your relative is alcohol addict or other substance use disorder. You may inherit the genes which put you at risk. The more family members (related by birth) you have with a problem, the greater your risk.

No one can control their genetic confirmation, but everybody can take actions to prevent an addiction. Some of the finest ways to limit a genetic susceptibility from becoming an alcohol addict include;

• Knowing the family history of substance misuse
• Keeping healthy friendships
• Imposing strong family links
• Try to find relationship therapy
• Managing stress
• Understanding addiction symptoms

If you have a genetic risk of developing an addiction and have shown signs, it is vital to seek treatment. Support and counseling can also help challenge social factors which could cause an alcohol problem in the future. If you or any of your loved one has developed a problem, there are many programs to direct you down the right path. Find help instantly.

The bottom line

Genes of an individual play a role in the risk of alcohol dependence.

Particular genetic variants can affect alcohol metabolism, helping determine whether drinking alcohol is a pleasant or unpleasant experience.

A future study could create a genetic profile for individuals at risk of alcoholism and help make handlings more operative.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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