Author: James Anderson

Recent advances in genetic studies of alcohol use disorders PMC

is being an alcoholic genetic

Studies arerevealing other genes in which variants impact risk for alcoholism or relatedtraits, including GABRA2, CHRM2,KCNJ6, and AUTS2. As larger samples areassembled and more variants analyzed, a much fuller picture of the many genesand pathways that impact risk will be discovered. Family studies have consistently demonstrated that there is a substantialgenetic contribution to alcohol dependence. Over the past two decades, several genesunderlying susceptibility have been identified. Extensive study of the alcoholmetabolizing genes has demonstrated their important role in disease risk. Additionalgenes have been identified that have expanded our understanding of the genes andpathways involved; however, the number of findings to date is modest.

is being an alcoholic genetic

Recent successes in genetic studies of AUDs will definetely motivate researchers and lead to better therapeutic interventions for this complex disorder. If drinking helps you relax after a hard day, it can become a pattern—even if you have no genetic history of addiction. Even frequent binge drinking with friends can change the reward system of your brain, leaving you vulnerable to cravings, and alcohol dependence. In other words, psychology and home environment likely have a significant impact on how alcoholism is passed down through families.


Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. Substance abuse treatment usually involves a comprehensive approach that combines medical and psychosocial interventions. Your socioeconomic status can directly affect your mental and physical well-being. If you live in a situation of poverty, for example, or in an area with limited resources, you may be less likely to have access to quality foods, community services, or adequate healthcare. Your socioeconomic status is made up of economic and societal factors such as your income, level of education, employment, location of residence, and available resources.

  1. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) are using fruit flies to find the genetic causes of alcoholism.
  2. It is hoped that such information will ultimately lead to improved prevention and treatment efforts.
  3. When raised in the exact same environment, identical twins seem more likely to share the same addiction patterns than fraternal twins.
  4. But while genetics influence our likelihood of developing alcoholism, it’s more complex.
  5. Over the next few years, we anticipate theidentification of additional common and rare variants contributing to the risk ofalcohol dependence.

Linkage studies are limited in terms of their spatial resolution, and thus, association studies that measure differences in allele frequencies between ‘case’ and ‘control’ populations were also pursued. Early association studies focused on a limited number of variants in or near genes selected a priori for their biological relevance to the trait of interest or physical location in the genome informed by prior linkage results. These inconsistent findings have tempered expectations and investment in both linkage and candidate gene studies. Recent estimates indicate that 5.6% of individuals meet criteria for a past year AUD [2], resulting in significant social, economic and public health costs [3,4].

Although it can be hard to separate the different causes from each other, there is solid evidence that genes play a role. To begin with, there is significant evidence that alcohol abuse can be passed down from generation to generation. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, people with an alcoholic parent are about four times as likely to struggle with alcohol, and numerous studies echo this connection to one degree or another. 1Due to space constraints the present review will use the term AUD to refer to both DSM-5 defined alcohol use disorder and DSM-IV defined alcohol dependence.

Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder

It is likely that, as for most complex diseases, alcohol dependence and AUDsare due to variations in hundreds of genes, interacting with different socialenvironments. An additional challenge in the search for genetic variants that affectthe risk for AUDs is that there is extensive clinical heterogeneity among thosemeeting criteria. Because the diagnosis of an AUD requires the presence of a set ofsymptoms from a checklist, there are many different ways one could meet thecriteria.

is being an alcoholic genetic

Certain genetic variations, such as cytochrome enzymes in the liver, can also influence how quickly a person metabolizes drugs. Your genetics can influence how likely you are to develop AUD, but there’s currently no evidence of a specific gene that directly causes AUD once you start drinking. Other studies on children of alcoholics have found links between having an alcoholic parent, and problems like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. “These genes are for risk, not for destiny,” stressed Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He added that the research could help in identifying youngsters at risk of becoming alcoholics and could lead to early prevention efforts. Hugo Bellen, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said the study “lays the foundation for a genetic approach to dissecting the acute, and possibly the chronic, effects” of alcohol in people.

What is the Genetic Heritability of Alcoholism?

What’s even more interesting is that you may be able to partially pass these changes on. Your life experience, and that of your family, may in some ways change your DNA. In other words, if others in your family have struggled with drinking, you aren’t doomed. And if you have no genes for alcoholism whatsoever, you aren’t totally off the hook. There is evidence that heavy episodic (binge) drinking, which results inexposure of tissues to high levels of alcohol, is particularly harmful81, 87, 88.

Addressing Alcoholism: Prevention and Treatment

AUD isn’t directly caused by genetics, but genetics may predispose you to developing AUD later in life. This risk is considered hereditary and may be passed down to you if you have a family history of AUD. In other words, while alcoholism may be partially genetic, there is often much more to the story. No person is guaranteed to develop an addiction, just as nobody is completely immune to it. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) are using fruit flies to find the genetic causes of alcoholism. According to scientists, drunken drosophila fruit flies behave the same way humans do when they are drunk.

The former relies on family-based samples to identify regions of the genome that co-segregate with the disorder of interest. There are several other genes that have been shown to contribute to the riskof alcohol dependence as well as key endophenotypes. The earliest genes weretypically identified as a result of family-based analyses. In most cases, studiesrecruited families having multiple members with alcohol dependence; such familiesare likely to segregate variants that affect the risk of alcohol dependence.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) often seems to run in families, and we may hear about scientific studies of an “alcoholism gene.” Genetics certainly influence our likelihood of developing AUD, but the story isn’t so simple. Genetic disorders are diagnosable conditions directly caused by genetic mutations that are inherited or occur later in life from environmental exposure. The more genetic factors you have, the higher your risk may be of having AUD. With current review, we aim to present the recent advances in genetic and molecular studies of AUDs.