One stands a heightened chance of taking to the vice of alcoholism if his or her parents, grandparents or any other close relative were ever hooked on drinking, a study conducted in 2015 has found. However, just because alcoholism tends to run in the family it does not mean that a child will automatically inherit the drinking habit too, it notes.
The study, headed by Professor Dorit Ron, Ph.D., endowed chair of Cell Biology of Addiction, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The study carried on animals suggests that a variant gene stimulates the brain protein that increases the chance of a person to develop compulsive drinking habit.
“Genetic factors play a role in determining who develops alcohol problems,” said NIAAA director Dr. George Koob, Ph.D. in a news release. “By understanding the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use disorder, we will be better able to develop targeted treatment and prevention strategies,” he added.
Mice carrying the variant gene Met68BDNF were found to indulge in excessive alcohol consumption. Met68BDNF limits the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may lead to abusive behavior.
Clearly, less brain activity may eliminate inhibition and lead to compulsive drinking, even to the point of producing negative consequences. In humans, this gene is responsible for altering the normal functioning of BDNF in the brain which causes a range of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and depression.
Another study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago sheds light on the universal question – why can’t someone stop drinking? According to Amy Lasek, neuroscientist, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois, Chicago, after binge drinking, neurons in brain circuits responsible for alcohol addiction get surrounded by a protein material called perineuronal net. This coating covers the neurons involved in alcohol addiction which cannot be broken easily. In fact, the treatment options available today don’t have the potential to break the overwhelming compulsion of alcoholics to drink.
With about 16.6 million adult alcoholics in the U.S., it will be worth knowing whether patients carry the genes that hampers the functioning of BDNF. This may help formulate alcohol prevention and treatment strategies in the future.
According to the NIAAA, although genetics is responsible for someone’s propensity to develop alcohol addiction, it’s taken a great deal of research to segregate the specific genes involved.
Effects of Alcoholism
Excessive alcohol consumption interferes with the normal functioning of brain and influences the way it looks and works. These changes affect the mood and behavior of the drinker and make it hard for him to think clearly and move in coordination. The long-term use of alcohol or consumption of a large quantity on a single occasion can damage the heart. An excessive consumption can even weaken one’s immune system, making the body vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Some other serious problems alcoholics usually face include injuries caused by car crash, falls, burns, drowning, domestic violence, family problems and broken relationships.
Excessive alcohol consumption also depresses the central nervous system and the concentration of alcohol in the blood determines the rate at which it gets impaired.
As a first step toward treatment, an alcoholic must accept the fact that he or she has a problem. Although it isn’t easy, it’s a necessary step toward the path of treatment and recovery.
For more information on alcoholism and related issues, call our helpline number 866-281-3014. The experts at 24/7 Alcohol Abuse Helpline will assist you in your struggle with alcoholism till you recover completely.