Have Scientists Identified Any Specific Genes That Predict Alcoholism?

Have you ever heard an alcoholic make the claim they came about their drinking disease through heredity? If so, you likely thought they must have been drunk as they made that seemingly ridiculous claim. After all, addiction sufferers are always looking for someone or something else to blame for their drinking problems. Well, it turns out they may have been telling more truth than even they realized. In recent years, researchers at prominent universities like The University of Texas at Austin and Washington University, among others, have successfully identified a gene combination that they can tie to a person’s predisposition to alcoholism.

In a press release back in 2014, R. Adron Harris, director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, stated: “We now have a much clearer picture of where specific traits related to alcohol dependence overlap with specific expressions in genetic code.” Sean Farris, the lead author of the study, later added, “We hope our model can serve as a type of Wikipedia of alcohol dependence, helping to break down the complexities of alcohol dependence and becoming a reference for future research into drug therapies.” Let’s get into more detail about the effects of heredity on alcoholism.

The Geneology Behind Alcoholism

The discovery was revolutionary. Researchers were able to compare the patterns of genetic code from the brain tissue of alcoholic families to those of nonalcoholic families. From these comparisons, they were able to detect a very clear difference between subjects. More specifically, they found variances in the movement of a brain chemical called GABA between gene neurons. The specific brain neuron issue was found with GABRG3. They were able to statistically link the issue with alcoholism in the affected subjects and their families. To be clear, this has nothing to do with the way familial, societal, and cultural attitudes toward alcohol consumption affect someone’s predisposition to drink to the point of addiction. These issues have always been accepted as contributory aspects of addiction. This new amazing discovery indicates people there are walking the earth who are genetically more prone to the disease of alcoholism than others. For what it’s worth, scientists still cannot predict to what extent genetics plays a role in alcohol addiction. What does that mean for the treatment of alcoholism?

Traditional Methods Will Still Stand as the Sole Option for the Treatment of Alcoholism

The discovery of heredity’s potential role is alcoholism has done nothing to this point to change the need for traditional rehab treatment. Alcohol addiction sufferers still need to go through the three steps of recovery:

  • Detox
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Aftercare treatment when and if necessary

Detox is the first step in the treatment process. Anyone with a significant addiction to alcohol is going to need professional help to deal with withdrawal. It’s the only way they can keep themselves safe while they deal with severe cramping, blood pressure issues, breathing problems, body shakes, and hallucinations. With a clear mind and body, clients can move on to the therapy portion of treatment. It’s here they will work with a therapist to figure out exactly what is driving their need to abuse alcohol. After completing treatment, there could be a need for participation in aftercare programs. Popular aftercare options include 12 Step programs, rehab alumni programs, additional outpatient counseling, and sober living.

In the Future

The ability to use genetic testing to determine if a person is predisposed to alcoholism at an early age opens the door to a myriad of possibilities. If the alcoholism gene sequence is identified, a person’s awareness of their predisposition to the disease of alcoholism could serve as a warning sign to never take that first drink. It’s also possible therapeutic methods could be used to drive a person’s behavior away from potential addictive behaviors. Finally, scientists will surely be looking for medicinal options to help regulate the gene sequence that could eventually cause addictive behavior. In your mind, you must be wondering how great it would have been if you had been given genetic prewarning of your predisposition to alcoholism. It might have given you pause to ever pick up that first drink. As for now, you have to deal with your disease as it stands. That’s something we would be glad about which to help you. If you are ready to start treatment, you can make arrangements by contacting one of our representatives at 833-762-3739.